Politics

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Those who owned the Bible

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 01/12/2007 - 17:40
I came across a very nice story by Leonel Rubio (Leonel, please correct me if I'm misattributing this to you), licensed under the Creative Commons license. It's in Spanish, but quite worth a read - Aquellos que Poseían la Biblia (Those who owned the Bible). It starts with the supposition that Disney, at the end of the ever-recurring cycle where they ask the US Congress to extend the duration of copyright (so that Mickey and Donald don't fall into the public domain), they push boldly for a new record: Not just 20 more years, but 500. Of course, this would be easily torn apart in little pieces in the laxest of law courts, but still, a nice read :) Thanks, Leonel! :D
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Are Debian people real Free Software zealots?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 11/28/2006 - 11:30
Wow... The amount of press/coverage inside the FS community (not necessarily good press) the Ubuntu people are receiving lately is huge. I smell the possibility where Canonical might face what many people call the ugly side of Debian - But what we, the insiders, call it the most important part of it: Our people's devotion to the Free Software ideals. Of course, even inside Debian there are all kind of opinions (to the point that Debian's main activity seems at times to be debating rather than coding), but the general perception is that we are the fundamentalist zealots. It's only funny to imagine what lies ahead. No, I'm not talking (for people not following planet.debian.org) about Ubuntu's latest big media scandal, although it might share some connections. Apparently, Canonical wants to grow and bring more people in. And, of course, being a commercial desktop-oriented distribution, being flashy (or in their words, going for the bling) is needed to keep up with the Joneses. This time, it starts (for me) with Scott's interesting and worthy posting regarding the future of binary blobs and clearly non-free drivers inside Ubuntu. In short: Scott explains why Ubuntu will apparently sacrifice some of its ideals for (what I read as) some extra popularity, and states he is not too happy with it. This, of course, has triggered a load of postings - not necessarily in chronological order, but: Mako, also an Ubuntite, asks people (users, developers) to tell their opinions on this - But he is not at all happy with the direction this might take. Many Ubuntu enthusiasts are voicing their opinions in Wiki form. I guess that Joey's peace of mind comes also because of this discussion (although I'm only stretching my views). ...There is always the debate of whether Ubuntu is good or bad for Debian, as Norbert points out. I've tried to stay away from it, quoting one of Luis Echeverría's famous it's neither good nor bad, it's just the opposite. I do think the two systems will eventually diverge too much - But I'm not at all involved in Ubuntu, and I refuse to back my claims ;-) The point of this posting is: When forming Canonical, obviously Mark wanted to gather the best of the best, people who knew their way developing and coordinating an eminently Free and high-quality distribution, but without the distraction of 1000+ developers trying to pull the whole distribution their way. By being the boss, he can ensure a single vision (and not a multitude of egos) drives the excellent work of talented hackers. However, there might be a subtle mistake: Maybe his team are too Debianites? Maybe they will show they are as strongly Free Software (and not Opensource) oriented as they were when they joined Debian? Maybe, even with the unlimited powers that being a SABDFL gives, Mark and the Ubuntu technical committee/community council will have to concede on not having the latest and flashiest, just to keep his elite team happily working? I'm not, of course, blaming them for selling their principles - Of all the commercially-oriented Linux distributions, Ubuntu is clearly the one that stays closer to what I'd like. And it's not by mere chance that it derives and keeps in constant sync (at least until now) with Debian. Still... This has the potential to make a big dent on their structure and vision.
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Oaxaca on fire

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 11/02/2006 - 13:22
Before anything else: Please excuse some grammatical mistakes I've made in this post. You should understand the topic is really upsetting, and typing while searching for links, listening to news, and gathering the basic information for a five month old conflict is not exactly compatible with me spewing out proper English ;-) Just to re-state the obvious: Mexico is, once again, on fire. This posting is mainly written with the Debian people in mind - An important number of them, after Debconf 6, went to visit Oaxaca - In late May, during the first weeks of this incredible, stupid and scary conflict we are now facing. I've written in my blog every now and then about our political situation. Many of us had high hopes on our current government. We thought that the authoritarian regimes were a thing of the past, we hoped for real democracy, we hoped for a government that would honor human rights and solve long-standing topics for our society - Yes, we all knew president Fox came from a right-wing party, and didn't expect much advance in the social agenda -which many of us perceive as the real problem in Mexico- but still, hoped for openness and reconciliation with the past. I won't repeat what I've extensively said over and over - The thing is, Fox's government continues to amaze us with its stupidity, with its near-sightedness, with its hypocresy. Fox's term is really close to an end - In one more month, the govt. will change hands to the first de-facto president since Carlos Salinas (going over another story we hoped to forget). As some of you wittnessed, there was a popular protest taking place mainly in Oaxaca - Basically, the State's public elementary school teachers demanding better payment for their work. Such a protest is already a common occurrence in Mexico, as public school teachers are among the worstly paid workers (no wonder, then, our country is still undeveloped - Make public education worse, and you have the warranty of an unprepared, ignorant population). The teachers went on strike in early May, briefly returned to classes on late June to properly close the 2005-2006 lective year, but went back on strike afterwards. Of course, the local government (Mexico is a federative republic, each state is autonomous and makes decisions independently) took a very long time to act - and acted the worst way possible: By sending policemen to forcefully throw the teachers from their camps in the downtown streets, with no negotiation, no answer, not a drop of common sense. That led to the formation of the (pleonasmicaly named) APPO: Popular Assembly of Oaxaca's People - A group of people, partly formed by the unhappy teachers, mainly demanding the Oaxaca state governor to step down, after he proved he is inept for his office. And yes, I'm oversimplifying here, but I don't want to dig too much - There is fortunately plenty of available information in this regard. That happened over four months ago. APPO kept control of the city. Nobody denies that this has caused Oaxaca, a city that attracts national and international tourism like few others in the country, a great deal of economic damage - Oaxacan people are, however, still sympathetic to APPO's demands. Governor Ulises Ruiz (from PRI, the party that ruled the country for over 70 years) has not been able to be seen in public in his state for some months already. The legislative power has also been unable to work properly, and the judicial power is half-dead, doing only its most basic tasks. Renowned jurists, such as Miguel Ángel Granados Chapa, have repeatedly stated that this is enough for the Federal Senate to declare the governing powers in Oaxaca have disappeared - This would put an end to the conflict, leading to immediate elections, but the Senate has denied taking this course of action. Not only that, but the Federal government took the command of the local security forces, tacitly recognizing the local government is unable to coherently excersise their authority. After almost five months, last week they issued an unanymous -but mild- exhort, asking Ulises Ruiz to consider stepping down. So far, 15 people have been killed in the different represive actions taken, first by the local police under local command, later by the local police under federal command, and starting last week, by the federal police. Today, it seems the army is getting in the conflict as well, despite promises of not doing so by the federal authorities - Of course, they have become masters in the art of breaking promises. Why is the federal government upholding Ulises Ruiz? Simple: After the undeniable electoral fraud we had some months ago, there are too many indicatives pointing out that our (supposedly) elected president Felipe Calderón (FeCal, as he is better known as) will have a hard time becoming the president, and many people doubt he will be able to hold the authority for the six years. So far, he has shown no better aptitude as a statesman than Vicente Fox: Instead of boldly facing the claims of fraud, he just chickened out and has spent many months hiding from the public, appearing only for selected, friendly audiences. For many months already we have heard "Ulises ya cayó, le sigue Calderón" (Ulises has fallen, Calderón is next). This country has not been so badly shaken in decades - Of course, Great Statesman Vicente Fox insists the country is in peace and there are no red spots. Fox even was stupid/blind enough to state that the problems in Oaxaca would be dealt with easily and successfully, just as the problems in Chiapas and Atenco were doing his term. During Fox's campaign, he promised to solve the centuries-old Chiapas problem (that resulted in the EZLN uprising in 1994) in just 15 minutes - He just has not had time to do so. Atenco? Yes, in 2002 an angry people made him step back from the most important project of his term (a new airport for Mexico City). In May 2006, Atenco sprang again to the news because of a massive repression - I'm not going into details on Atenco right now, as it would be off-topic, but you can look at my article in FeCal.org.mx or watch a very strong video by Canal Seis de Julio (both in Spanish only) for further details. Last Friday, however, something was different. In a repressive action, a USA citizen, the Indymedia reporter and cameraman Brad Will was killed by a paramilitary group. Even more, he was killed while doing his work, and we can clearly see this evidence on his last tape. Of course, the US ambassador issued a warning, asking the US citizens not to go to Oaxaca. And, as Lorenzo Mayer says, hay de muertos and muertos - There are different categories of dead people. A highly visible US citizen is more important than the other 14 dead Mexicans, and now the Federal Preventive Police is clashing in Oaxaca. What should be shocking, but is not so much to those of us who know this beaten country, is the attitude of the authority when taking the city. After five months of occupation, the Oaxacan people have got used to living with APPO - be it for good or for bad. Tourism has diminished, but the people's living sources have not been attacked. Of course, as soon as the Federal Police took the downtown areas, all sorts of reports of looting have been reported. The policemen are robbing even sodas and chips, and up to TVs and microwaves. As many people state, this is a very Kafkian country. Of course, we don't know what will come next. Most of the city has been "freed", and the APPO is holding at the University. The University is autonomous, and the PFP commands have promised not to break its autonomy - but we don't believe that. There are fights very close to the University. The Rector himself spoke a couple of hours ago at Radio Universidad, the main broadcasting point for real news on this subject (I am following on the news thanks to KeHuelga, 102.9MHz FM in Southern Mexico City, or at their webpage, from where they link to many other underground or Internet radio stations joining in the broadcast), and the reports are dramatic. Dramatic, as well, is the way all of the commercial news sources are ignoring the facts. I want to keep you updated, as one of the very few reasons things are not worse is the public opinion and, even more, the international pressure. I'm sorry I'm not giving more links right now, but I will soon. I don't want, of course, to flood people that read my blog through the different syndications with a technical profile, so updates via my blog will be quite sparse. If you can read Spanish, we have posted many articles at FeCal, and many other individual sites are also joining in. A couple of links, and I'm off for now.
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Official: The fraud is a fact.

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 09/05/2006 - 15:14
Today, as it was widely anticipated, the Superior Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation (TEPJF) declared Felipe Calderón, of the currently right-wing governing PAN party, elected as president for the 2006-2012 period. My regular readers will know that my political views are against his party's, and that I completely oppose him - Of course, being consequent, in June I started, together with some friends, FeCal.org.mx, a site destined to show the incongruencies and incoherences in the official version - and that evolved to a site I am quite fond of, having good and deep analysis of the political situation. Of course, it is time now to redesign and think forward for this site, now that FeCal is no longer a candidate - but lets leave it aside for now. Today, we are mourning. We are not mourning an electoral loss - Wherever there is democracy, there are losers, and it might be right that we lost this time. Furthermore, in political systems such as ours, it is practically guaranteed that the majority of the citizens will lose (this means, it is terribly hard for any candidate to get over 50% of the votes - If Calderón wins with almost 35% of the votes, or if López Obrador wins by a similar amount, we will anyway have 65% of losers). But what we are mourning goes far beyond that: We lost faith in our electoral institutions, which we were so proud of a couple of years ago. They proved not to be serious, not to be adequate for a hard decision. Why am I saying this? Lets analyze a bit. First of all, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE)'s main function is to organize the federal elections, and to make sure they are run with neutrality. Since the early months of the formal competition (as the campaigns themselves started way too early and we Mexicans are sick of the eternal electoral climate), the IFE has not acted in time to stop a dirty campaign, made not only by the PAN party but by the nation's President himself and by groups that, being privately owned, are said to be outside the reach of the IFE's regulatory spectrum. The IFE's general council should have been built with representants of all of the main political forces, but only PRI and PAN (which means, center-right and right wing) were represented. Secondly, over the last six years, President Fox seems to have made constant efforts not only to prove us all he is a complete fool and inept as a statesman (examples abound, there is no rush to prove Vicente Fox just cannot be trusted to run a country), but that his fight for democracy was nothing but a race for personal power. He took every oportunity he could to promote his party - while the Mexican law requires him to remain neutral during the electoral period. There are many proven examples of irregularities and corruption inside his cabinet (most notably those carried out by Josefina Vázquez Mota, who was in charge of all of the federal programs to fight poverty, and was the coordinator of Calderon's campaign) leading to inject resources into the campaign. Yes, this should have been stopped by IFE as soon as they were detected - But it was not. And, thank you Mr. Fox, by doing this you severely undermined the respect there should be for the Presidential figure. Now, IFE's role ends shortly after the elections. After that, it is TEPJF's role to qualify the elections - To ratify they complied to the required equity, legality and certainty. Many of us had more trust in TEPJF than in IFE, mainly because of the series of personal and group connections that came up between IFE and the power groups. Most of us were quite vocal on the voto por voto, casilla por casilla front - Demanding from TEPJF to request to recount all of the votes. Having only 0.58% distance between the top candidates, with lots of statistical anomalities, with tons of reports of illegal tampering of the ballots, having a wide recount would surely make many among us believe and accept the results - Of course, the PAN repeated ad nauseam that the ballots had been counted and we should not go again over the same excercise, quoting all kinds of arguments that came from a too narrow interpretation of the law. And, in the end, too narrow was the response of TEPJF - Only 9% of the booths were reinspected, and not all of them were recounted. In fact, one week ago, they decided to discard over 300 appeals (this means, 300 requests for trial on a specific booth or on a whole district), without yet disclosing which appeals were they, on what basis were they discarded, what geographical areas did they impact, or anything. They nullified about 235,000 votes - And this number is quite scary, as it practically matches the official difference between the two lead candidates (244,000 votes before this partial recount, 233,000 after it). We can now state for certain that the difference between the candidates is smaller than the error margin. Today, with a very important portion of the country in doubt on whether their decision was legal and correct, TEPJF ratified Felipe Calderón as the elected president. This would be good news. I would like to accept Felipe as my president - Sadly, I cannot, just because all of the TEPJF's principles were violated:
  • Equity: The process didn't progress with equity. Illegal publicity was repeated over and over. Just as one example, the Presidency has had the equivalent of 24h a day of ads in the national electronic media for over six months - And IFE acknowledged it was used in a way that promoted the vote for their candidate. The final message was very subtly changed, many people were left unsatisfied, and... That was it. Andrés Manuel López Obrador was often protrayed as a puppet of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, and there are still people who believe he was setting to create a communist regime in Mexico. Of course, this was also a direct result of what is now known as the hatred campaign that the ruling party and an important group of industrials pushed. So, no, we had no equity.
  • Legality: Most of this posting has dealt with the ilegalities of the process, they are really not in short supply. The sad and alarming thing is that it was the TEPJF itself which commited the last and most important illegal acts.
  • Certainty: In a strongly contested electoral scenario, I perceive this to be the sole most important principle. How many votes were cast for each of the top candidates? We have repeatedly stated that the difference between them is below the statistical error margin for a process where a million people counted the votes. And after last week's results where nearly 240,000 votes were discarded, the difference is objectively and undoubtely smaller than the error margin. Even if no fraud was made, people make mistakes, and it is too naïve to assume not even one out of each 200 votes was incorrectly accounted. And even if no fraud was done, not allowing the society to ensure the results of the process really match the reality is by itself a fraud. We will now probably never know if Felipe Calderón cheated, the same as we still don't know who won in 1988 and by how much. Then, official records say that Carlos Salinas had over 50% of the votes, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas almost 30% and Manuel Clouthier close to 20% - But both Cárdenas and Clouthier were sure they had won. And while Cárdenas (founder of the PRD, which now supports López Obrador) called off the civic resistence to start creating a strong political movement for future, PAN's Clouthier did exactly what his party criticizes López Obrador for. In fact, our president Vicente Fox was the Agriculture Secretary in Clouthier's parallel government. Only that Clouthier had a misterious accident some months later and died - giving way to the dark period of PRI-PAN concertacesiones led by Diego Fernández de Ceballos.
So... In short, what comes now? We are exhausted by this long process. As too many people, I just cannot accept the imposition of yet another fraudulent president. I had the hopes that Mexico had changed in the last 18 years - But it has not. We are still in a strong presidentialist regime, and we still don't have hopes of getting a democratic government. If we do have a democraticly elected president, perfect, I will accept it. Of course, criticizing and keeping a close eye on his government, as I don't think the social and economic principles they push, but accepting. But there are too many signs of a fraud, there are too many stinky bits in the decision. The stinkiest of them all, the refusal of their opportunity to shut us up. Is it better to have millions of angry citizens closing important streets and giving Mexico a bad name by writing about our trip back to the stone age than to allow for a legal recount? Is it too much asking giving some certainty to our elections? Is there any doubt we will keep fighting this imposition?
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What does a DPL lead mean?

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 09/04/2006 - 08:38
Raphaël: I mostly agree with your post. Having something closer to a steering committee seems saner than having a single leader for projects such as Debian, due to a single person not able to fully follow everything such a large and diverse mass of people works on. I was among the supporters of Project Cabal^W^Wthe DPL team experiment, and of our 2IC role. However, you state that a release should determine the time a DPL team (call it committee, cabal or whatnot. I like the title, in fact: "I am an Elected Member of the Whatnot of Debian". Whee!) - I disagree on this one. Like the fact DPL is not chosen for technical but for political work - The DPL (and so should the team) mediates between parties, brings order (controversial, sometimes) to discussions, pushes forward some controversial decisions, reports on the general status of the project - That should be the Whatnot Team work (hmmm... Should I file for trademark on that name?). In any case... Were we to change our model towards this formal DPL team thingie, I advocate slow changes over strong ones - I prefer a board like this one to be replaced one person at a time, at rates not more frequent than one month, and having them there for a fixed amount of time. Of course, this would lead to a mess on managing the voting, and each vote being less important for the developers. Besides, we have had DPL elections with as little as two candidates, and topping at seven IIRC - Do we have enough people interested in being responsable for our administrative chores? Would this scheme work? Or would it lead us closer to administrative stagnation? Quoting our not-very-beloved-but-anyways-wise dictator (for the 1876-1910 period) Porfirio Díaz: "If I want something done, I do it myself. If I want it to take some time, I appoint a delegate to do it. If I don't want it ever done, I form a committee".
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Israeli mistakes

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/31/2006 - 19:30
Reading Jordi's blog, I cannot but agree with him (in most points): I plainly cannot understand Israel's actions in the last weeks. I can sadly understand how some people defend them, specially people not living in Israel - I was talking with a friend today, a friend who does not share a single political viewpoint with me, but still... The world seems to be completely polarized. Some have the impression that Israelis live under constant shelling, that life is unsustainable in that poor country, the last corner of civilization in that mess called the Middle East, and that the Arab countries (which are huge and petroleum-rich) just want to throw Jews to the sea or worse. The rest of the world think that Israelis are mass-murderers who decided to take a heavily populated bit of land and martyrize its originary population by any possible means, establishing an Apartheid. Both views are false. But of course, both views hold their bits of truth. I cannot claim to be neutral on this: Although I lived there in total for ~18 months, I am an Israeli by choice (I adopted the Israeli nationality in 1996 and wanted to live my life there - I came back to Mexico for personal reasons, and I later decided to stay here). I have not been to Israel since then - But I try to keep myself informed. And, living in a Jewish family, it's hard not to be somewhat informed - and of course, shocked at your relatives' opinions. Jews outside Israel tend to be right-wingers. I lived in a kibbutz, and I still sympathyze with Meretz, the most leftwing Zionist party. I won't restate what Jordi eloquently said. I know not everybody who reads my blog reads Jordi's as well - Please do. If you missed it some lines above, here is the link. I insist: I agree with most of what he wrote. What could Israel do to protect itself from its enemies? The answer is simple: Don't give them a reason to hate you. One year ago, I was optimistic because Israel was heading the right way. Of all people, Ariel Sharon (one of Israel's most hawkish, right-wing strongmen of all times) decided to withdraw from Gaza, and hinted that areas in the West Bank would follow. No, not the best way possible, not as his predecessor Menahem Begin did with Egypt leading to a strong and long lasting peace, and certainly not in the very notable way Itzhak Rabin did with Jordan, getting peace and even friendship. But at least, Sharon accepted the reality, and seemed he meant to let Palestinians build their state. When he organized a new party which reduced Likud to a shadow of its past, one of Israel's most prominent figures for the peace camp, Shimon Peres, joined. Amazing. But still, there is too much hatred. Of course, life in Gaza is plainly not sustainable. You can walk the Gaza strip side to side in less than one hour, and North to South it's less than 50 Km long. Still, over 400,000 people live in there. The area is simply unsustainable. Gaza depends for everything from Israel. Of course, according to the never-stable security status, the border between Gaza and Israel opens or closes every day. When I lived in Zikim, mostly every day there were five or six Arabs working with us... Except for the days when they weren't there. And, of course, Israel also depends on the Arabs for much of its hard labor jobs (as it's always the case when two economically disparate populations live together). Anyway, back on track: Besides giving the Arabs their slice of land (which in a squeezed area as Israel is always hard; people have fought for such small spaces it's hard to believe), the only thing Israel can do is help them. It has worked before: Israeli Arabs (the Arabs living inside the internationally recognized borders of Israel) are full citizens. Yes, there is racism in the country towards them, and yes, they are not really equal with Jewish Israelis - But they have voting rights, they have the right to be elected, they can optionally join the army (it's not compulsory as it is with the Jewish population), and they get government aid. Arab towns are poorer than Jewish towns, yes, but they have their dignity. The problem in Gaza and South Lebanon (somewhat less so in the West Bank, but also) is that it's plainly all made up of refugee camps. Refugees that were born there, and whose parents were born there as well. And, let me emphasize this, they are not Israel's fault. The refugees fled the newborn Israel because the Arab states said (in May 1948) they would enter Palestine and butcher everybody, inviting Arab civilians to flee and then get back home - of course, 700,000 (out of 1,300,000 who lived in Palestine by then) Arabs did so. And when the Arabs lost the war, the Palestinians were denied citizenship by all the Arab countries except for Jordan (not surprisingly, the most stable of them all, and with which Israel has the closest relation). They were given refugee camps to live, one over the other. When Egypt signed the peace with Israel, it demanded back every inch of the Sinai - But not an inch of Gaza. And not a single Palestinian refugee. I agree here with Jordi as well: There is a huge military operation in Gaza, but it's more spectacular in Lebanon today. The media talks about Lebanon, but not about Gaza. And the crisis in Gaza is not easier. But how can it be solved in a permanent way? Israel does neither have land to spare to give to the Palestinians - and even if it did, most of Gaza is surrounded by the Negev, a desert where it would not be easy for them to get anything better than what they have inside Gaza. As desirable as it would be to have a completely independent Palestinian state, Gaza would just remain a concentration camp. There is too much hatred, and neither Arabs nor Israelis want to keep working together, not trusting each other. The only solution I can find to this is to have an agreement with Egypt, where Egypt opens its border with Gaza, gives either nationality or work permits to Gazan Palestinians, and Israel injects capital to develop Northern Sinai, to give some hope of survival to the almost half million people. The same in Lebanon: Israel was widely applauded to withdraw from South Lebanon in 2000. The area is mostly peaceful - For ${DEITY}'s sake, what is the kidnapping of two soldiers in a six year period compared to soldiers being killed in the occupation army every week or two? Israel did well to leave Lebanon. Lebanon was starting an incredible national rebuilding process, as Robert Fisk tells us (Spanish only. I could find only the first paragraphs of the original English version, which appears to require subscription) of the wonders of the rebuilding process, reduced to rubble again. Of course, Israeli and Syrian armies left Lebanon. The Lebanese government and army are plainly too weak to care for the country. Hezbollah (which, indoubtely, is a terrorist entity, no matter how many benefical aspects it does have) have poured tremendous amounts of money to rebuild its area of influence, South Lebanon. Of course, they rebuilt, healed and educated with a strong ideological inclination, and that's not good for Israel. What can Israel do to leasen the Islamist influence? Simple: Send aid. Don't just leave. Don't leave a void, don't invite bad people to loot, don't invite extremist people to recruite future bombers. Turn occupation into aid. Build hospitals. Build houses. Give money, give infrastructure. Do it behind your back, as you gave money to the South Lebanon Army for almost 20 years. But make the people see you don't want to kill and rob them - Make the Lebanese Arabs feel their neighbour as a friend, although different. Bring back the good border. What's that? That's the nickname for the Lebanese border between +- 1950 and 1970 - The only border that was stable, that was not filled with hatred, where Israeli doctors treated Lebanese patients across the fence. And still today, the border is just a simple fence. How can you convince a people of not killing themselves to kill the invasor? Don't act as an invasor. Act in all your best self-interest - Save them from poverty and from indignity.
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The morning after: Mexican elections aftermath

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 07/04/2006 - 13:35
Yes, this is one of those postings I'd like to make in Spanish. However, a long time ago I decided my blog should be in English, as many of the people I write it for don't speak Spanish, so don't bug me with that ;-) Besides, I do think it is very important not to leave this information inside the country. International pressure has proven fundamental to stop some of our government's flaws. So... What happened with our elections? Nothing yet. As many expected, and as we all hoped it would not happen, the results are too close to call a winner. Ugly and tiring trend, just as it happened in the USA six years ago, and more recently in Germany, in Perú (twice in the same elections!)... As it stands now, it seems the candidate I have been favoring and promoting for quite a long time will not make it. The first results from the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) show a ~1% advantage for the right-wing PAN candidate. That's a sad result for me and for those that think like me, yes... But what is even sadder is that there is evidence pointing out it might not be true after all. It is sad that we might end up winning. Or losing, for that matter. Why? Because it will show that we are not over the fraudulent electoral system that made my country famous for decades. As a side comment: Blogs suck for interactivity. Either we read replies on the different planets that syndicate us (and come up with unfollowable threads) or we leave comments on people's blogs (and risk never being read, and never read an answer)... Damog [update No, it was not Damog, it was somebody else cowardly using his name :-/ ] left me a reply to my previous post that I think I should address: Regarding the FeCal website I launched with some friends a couple of weeks ago: A site meant to point out the lies on the campaign of the right wing candidate, Felipe Calderón. And, yes, the site is meant (now) to attack him. Dirty, yes. But definitively, it was the only way to answer, and it was the only way not to let his lies dig further into the collective mind of the people. And to a very good exent, we (not only FeCal, but the whole López Obrador camp) managed to turn the trend, pointing out Calderón's uncleanness and disrespect for the people and the law. And even if in th beginning we thought of making a site that would just make fun of the Feliz-pillo, we ended up writing or refering to articles we think are relevant. And after the elections are really over (the IFE will start doing the exhaustive official vote count only tomorrow, and it can take even until next Sunday), we will see how to transform this site (or at least this group of people, we will see what happens next) into an observatory, following the politicians' decisions and trying to avoid they are as obvious as they have always been. Anyway, back on track: Hundreds of complaints have been reported already. A site that keeps track of many of them is El sendero del Peje al 2006 - There are many criticisms we can make to this site, and up to now I have avoided linking to it too much... But their work is very important today. There are many photos of the vote booths' sheets of results, compared with what is registered in the IFE's preliminary results program, and they show slight differences - Strangely, in the 1% margin. Strangely, small enough so most people will not complain. Strangely, just the exact amount needed to give the elections to the right-wing PAN party. From the first minutes after the results were announced, López Obrador told the media that there are around 3 million missing votes. Today, the IFE president (and a polemic figure himself, obviously) Luis Carlos Ugalde admitted those 3 million votes exist, but their data shows irregularities. Lets see what happens. Lets hope the irregularities do not mean the results will be modified. There are also reports about the data reported by the preliminary results being too perfect, following a linear trend that would be impossible to achieve in a real vote count. The results of both candidates have a constant distance, going up or down together, depending only on the third candidate (a distant third) going slightly up or down. There are also reports of voting booths that were already captured and disappeared from the system, to reappear some time later - with very slight differences. So... It is too early to call this a fraud. Yes, many of those things might happen because of real corrections, capture errors or such. I want not to call fraud. I want to trust the authorities no matter what they decide. They are just making it harder for me -and for a hundred million Mexicans- to do so. Lets see what comes in the next days.
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Consumatum est!

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 07/02/2006 - 10:13
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Working on politics: The FeCal project

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 06/07/2006 - 09:23
Ok, it may not be ready yet, it might be lacking too many details. It might even make sense to make this initial announcement in Spanish - But a long time ago, I decided my blog would be English-only, as most of the people who read it are not Spanish speakers. Anyway, here I go. We are less than one month away of the presidential elections in Mexico. We are facing the choice between two candidates (the others won't really make a difference this time): Felipe Calderón, a conservative member of the right-wing PAN party (currently ruling), and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, from the center-leftist PRD party. There are way too many reasons for me, and for my friends, to prefer and promote the López Obrador project. No, that is not the definitive leftist stance we want, but it is a good step in the right direction. He was the major for Mexico City from 2000 to 2005, and his government showed he knows how to push social programs, he knows how to improve the conditions of the mass of the population, he knows he must start acting from below, reducing the terrible gap that exists in my country between poor and rich people, among the steepest differencies in the world. So... Instead of flooding my personal blog with things that are not directly relevant to most of us, some friends and I have started setting up www.fecal.org.mx, the unofficial site of Felipe Calderón. Yes, we took some of the steps we often criticize about the right-wing propaganda: Attacking instead of proposing. López Obrador has lost some points as he is centered more in proposing and spreading his government plan than in destroying Felipe Calderón - While Calderón has been working on creating fear, on tying López Obrador's figure to that of an authoritarian dictator (Hugo Chávez has often been quoted, although it has been proven over and over no link or similarity exists), on dismissing his economic program saying he only knows how to create debt (while Mexico City's economy was strongly reactivated during López Obrador's period, and the city's public debt has not grown considerably compared to what previous governments did), and simply ignoring any criticism to his own project dismissing them as baseless propaganda. Originally, we intended FeCal to become just a parody of Felipe's official site, emphasizing on what a shitty candidate he is (no wonder he carries such a name!), but we decided to be more propositive than him - We will post news following Felipe's intransigency, erroneous economic decisions and incoherences, yes, but we will also write articles by ourselves, trying to provide more interesting content, something that can objectively be used as a reference on why Felipe Calderón's project cannot be seen as socially responsable, as something that will benefit anybody but the current ruling elite - Just giving six more years to the already too long 24 year old marriage with neoliberalism we have seen, just continuity with the current government's failures, just more white-collar corrupt thieves which never recieve any kind of punishment and discourage people from pushing together towards a better country. So, I stop flooding here. If you want to take part in the FeCal project, please contact me. If you agree with what we say, link us from your page, from your texts, from whatever you do.
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Visas for Debconf - Sorrow for our government's great history and current blindness

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 05/03/2006 - 20:19
One of the most bitter and hardest tasks of running a large international conference such as Debconf 6 is the absurd process to ensure that every person interested in attending is able to do so. Before I start ranting, let me point you to a very well written text my father wrote about two years ago, out of a similar frustration after organizing the XXV International Colloquium on Group Theoretical Methods in Physics - On travelling to Scientific Meetings. Mexico is not a first world country, as you all know it (you didn't know? Well, please take note). Mexico is not a country that gets heavy migration - quite to the contrary, it is a country from where masses of people live in the United States (seven to ten million). We should not fear migrants staying at our country and stealing our precious job sources. The countries Mexico requests visa for are mostly those at or under our economic level (i.e. most of South America) or those with infrequent travellers coming (i.e. most of Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa (of course, we have to make sure they don't suddenly become tourists and give us more money). Were it not for the "intelligent borders" the USA government is demanding on ours as a precondition to walk towards a migratory agreement that could in the future legalize at least part of the Mexicans that live in the USA, it would be impossible for me to understand why does a situation like what we have experienced happen. We started, yes, the visa request process a bit late, due to some organization problems which should remain internal to the local organizing committee - However, we requested the visas for 25 people coming from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Colombia, Croacia, El Salvador, India, Perú and Russia with a process that started on March 25 - Well before May 5, where the first of them is scheduled to arrive. Of course, we knew the process would not be easy, but we were armed by the written assurement of a migration officer to my father assuring him the migration procedures would be vastly simplified during 2005. I will try to keep the story short. I cannot also speak the whole experience, as it was my wife together with the Nul-Unu people who had the burden of doing all this. Once you enter your request, it is impossible to track where it is - INM is a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. You cannot get any information by phone. When the papers were submitted, Nadezhda was told to come back in 10 days for getting the status update. Ten days later, she was told no information was yet available. Some days after that, she found the papers had been sent to Cuernavaca (Morelos state capital), where we should have presented them, because the conference is taking place in Oaxtepec, Morelos... No, they didn't pay attention to the fact that we repeated over and over that the organization running the conference, AMESOL, was based on Mexico City. Ok, no big deal - We went to Cuernavaca so that the AMESOL president was interviewed on what the conference is about and why should we let all that people in our country, and demanding from him to accept personally the responsability of making sure each of them leaves the country as promised. Not only that, we had to go again because not all of the requests were sent the same day, and they belonged to different batches. They also asked the Oaxtepec people if the list of people had a room booked - of course, the hotel crew knew the group was coming, but not the list of individuals! But no reply yet. The office in Cuernavaca said they would fax the results back to Mexico the next day. That next day took almost two weeks. With the results already in Mexico, and with the help of some insiders we came in contact with thanks to different coincidences (I'm not giving any names or functions here, hope you understand), we finally got notice last Friday (April 28) that most visas were approved, but a handful (Bosnia, Bangladesh and Colombia) were held for national security reasons. At long last, yesterday (May 2) we told most of the group was approved, and got the magic authorization number with which they could go get their visas. Not all of them yet... I really hope the authorization can come on time, and we can get the rest of them here. At least it helped a bit that we as a committee invited them - Otherwise, people from poorer countries would have to show bank account statements assuring they have had an average of US$2000 in their savings account for at least one year - Impossible even for most Mexicans. But the story, incredibly, does not end here. Why didn't I write about this before? Because I was just pissed off. Today, I am enraged. Not only you have to go through a stupidly long process to be awarded a visa. Once the visa is awarded, you have to pay its fees. The visa is expensive, more or less as expensive as the USA visa is for us - around US$40. But the visa is worth nothing without the FM3 migratory document - I knew the FM3 was used by foreigner residents. It's basically a complete passport. A stupid, unnecessarily long document, where your entries and exits are recorded, where you should note your work place, etc. - All fine for a long-term resident... But we are being awarded limited one entry tourist visas. Oh, and by the way: An FM3 costs around US$100... So for the poorer countries, after being mistreated, ignored and degraded, you have to pay US$140, probably one whole fucking month of your salary just to get the needed permits?! We complain a lot on how the USA government does not respect Mexicans. Just this Monday, May 1st, there was a massive migrant movement in the USA, seconded in Mexico via an (symbolic, yes, but nevertheless true) one day long economic boycott against USA companies. Mexicans speak of the rights of our migrants, of the abuse that the USA authorities make... But we are unable to treat others with dignity, to welcome them as our country did for many decades. This makes me very sad. And very angry. I should have been writing information for you all to have a good and easy time when coming to Mexico, but that will have to be a bit later - I cannot just stay and stand this situation.

Mr. Fox should have abolished the Congress five years ago

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 04/04/2006 - 12:23
...If that is what it would have taken for his mediocre term to be positive for our nation. Today he says that it's because of the congress that he could not solve the conflict in Chiapas (a deed he promised in his campaign that would take not more than 15 minutes). The congress didn't vote the correct laws to solve the conflict, it seems. Of course, the promised 15 minutes seemed not to be the time it would take for him to mediate, negotiate and agree with the unhappy indigenous population, but just to sign the needed paper. The Congress did not send the right law, it seems... Strange, I would say, as the Law for Indigenous Rights and Culture that was approved was approved by PRI, PAN and PVEM almost five years ago. That law, instead of fixing the problems requested by EZLN and many other groups, ignored the proposed beginnings of a solution. It was voted by PAN (Fox's party), PRI (the historical dominant party, now shrinking every day more) and PVEM (so called ecologist party). Of course, had Fox wanted to solve the problem, it would have taken him over 15 minutes to read the proposed law - but he would have been able to ask his party not to vote for it.
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On Daylight Savings Time

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/03/2006 - 19:24
Joey Hess blogs about possible dangerous ways to exploit the daylight savings time. Well, for the tenth year in a row (if I am not mistaken), we central-Mexicans can proudly announce we are GMT-5. When I was a kid, we were always told that daylight savings are a very important way to save energy in non-tropical areas, such as the North-Western states, USA, Canada and Europe. We understood that, as tropical beings, we didn't have to worry about that, as it would have neglegible effects for us. Ten years (eleven?) ago, this changed, and we became first-class world citizens, together with the emotion of shifting the clock's hands twice a year. Of course, we all did stupid things once or thrice - The first time we got back to GMT-6, I moved to GMT-4 instead. We were laughing at the fools who forgot to move the watch. I went to the movies with Nadezhda, and was confronted by a less-than-amused clerk that had to explain the same to too many people along the day. At least he smiled when he noticed we were stupider than most. Well, today I am a big fan of daylight savings. I simply like having sunlight up to 20:00, sometimes even 21:00 - But I have reversed the old logic I was taught at school. We Mexicans have very little variation in our clocks - We go from maybe 11 to maybe 13 hours of daylight comparing Summer and Winter. Ok, make it 10 and 14, to make it sound more dramatic. Having the sun raise at 6AM makes sense, no matter what time of year it is. Most electricity is spent in the early night (8-10PM)... So it makes a lot of sense. Even for the people in the USA, maybe even Canada, and most of Europe. But... Why do Nordic countries adhere to daylight savings? I mean... You vary from 4 to 20 hours of sunlight a day - What difference does one hour make anyway? Why follow the hassle we all regular humans have to go through? I can't imagine people in Narvik and Rovaniemi trying to squeeze that little glimpse of sun they have during the winter, and trying to align their sleeping time to the exact the sun is only half-visible in Summer.
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My view on DPLship

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 03/09/2006 - 12:46
Several people's blogs have appeared recently in the planet with the different points of view on the different candidates and various rants regarding the DPL office - Well... This time I have not yet been able even to read the platforms of the different candidates (of course, I plan on doing it quite soon), but I follow the posts on the subject with interest. The most interesting post so far is Martin Michlmayr's - Of course, being an ex-DPL, there are important experiences he has that few people do. A couple of days ago I was talking with one of the candidates with whom I have talked and worked in the past. My main gripe with the whole process is that, although as a project we need a leader, an easily identifiable single contact person who knows the teams, knows the people and can speak on the project's behalf, I have not seen much being done by the past DPLs towards the inside of the project. Of course, it's easy to bitch around when I sit in the comfortable silent majority most of the time - Currently I am devoting quite less time and effort to Debian than what I should, although it is true that setting up Debconf6 in Oaxtepec takes a _lot_ of time and that it will facilitate much more interaction between Debian people (which is good for the project) than me working more and better on my packages and on doing interesting team work. Maybe something that would make me to vote for somebody, more than the most coherent and best written platforms, is for the candidate to admit the lack of importance of the role to most of the project - or to defend how to make it again a leadership position. Following Martin's post, maybe we do need a Bruce-like leader who tells us what to do and drives the project. Or maybe not, maybe we could do better with reducing the importance of the post towards the inside and emphasizing it's mostly a confidence vote for somebody to speak on behalf of us all. And even this would be difficult, as a sad flame in debian-private some months ago reminds us that nobody can speak on behalf os the whole project because somebody might be offended by the viewpoint taken by the official? I am no big believer in democracies. I do think that sticking to much to a democratic constitution (where democracies are very scarce in the Free Software world, where projects tend to have benevolent dictators grown by meritocracy instead of democratically elected) and allowing everybody to voice too much the same opinion in our regular flamewars has lead Debian to the communications swamp it is right now. We do have very effective small teams (quoting Andreas Schuldei' term for the phenomenon that seems to work best and appear naturally in our project), integration between teams is quite good... But having 1000+ people sitting in a big room and shouting at each other is plainly not fun. Maybe we should stop pretending that there is no cabal (forgod'ssake...) and admit that there is and it works, and we (the drones) implement Their decisions? Nah... That sounds it would only create more flamewars. But seriously: Towards the inside, do we need a leader? Have we ever used it?
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Novel noble ideas for solving the world's problems

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/31/2006 - 09:46
Yesterday, the right-wing PAN candidate for the presidency of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, made a declaration that shadows the current president, Vicente Fox (from his same political party) almost look like a genuine statesman. (some links, La Jornada, El Universal) - And that's no easy feat, given that Mr. Fox is -so far- the nation's most prolific president... When it comes to stupid sayings. How come Calderón rose so quickly to become a statesman? Let me first go through a bit of history. Not much, promise. Well, I'll do my best. Twelve years and one month ago, Mexicans woke up with the frightening news we had a violent guerrilla group in Chiapas, one of Mexico's richest states, but one with the highest percentages of poor people - and, not coincidentally, of indigenous population as well. This uprising was very soon known all over the world - And its leaders quickly learned how to ensure they would not be prosecuted and exterminated: Simultaneously with the fighting, they made as large a media coverage as they could, strongly supported in the Internet democratization of the information that had just begun. Thousands of people all over the world understood their ideas -at least what they said at that time- and spread the word. I had my first trip in Europe with my (now) wife in 1996, and we saw many grafittis stating Viva Chiapas, Viva EZLN... It was amazing. EZLN was (is) specially hard for the government to kill. As they don't do military sabotages, terrorism or so on, it is very hard to justify military action. After 12 days of fighting, a truce was decreed. The truce was broken once, in the early years of the Zedillo government, but officially there is a cease-fire, observed by both sides. The Zapatistas have took the ideas and further promoted them, with action. My Chiapas-born friend Alex Juárez often tells me about the tremendous cultural difference between the Zapatista territories and the paramilitary ones - In the Zapatista areas, you see indians reading books, working their land, organizing themselves in the Fair Government councils, and strongly opposing alcohol and drugs. Just the opposite from the other areas. EZLN shifted their strategy some months ago, going beyond stating their wishes for a fair regime and waiting for the government to look at them. I still don't really understand where they are heading, but the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Rainforest turns them into a political movement, clearly separated from the existing regime. They do not seek to be elected, they oppose every party and candidate. They define themselves as an anticapitalist movement, located down and to the left - Lets see where this goes to. Well, back on track... One of the president's most famous stupid quotes is that, during his campaign, he promised to solve the Chiapas conflict in fifteen minutes. Well, it's been either fifteen very long minutes, or he just hasn't had any time to devote to those dirty indians. Mexicans are very frustrated by the lack of importance this man gave to one of our country's longest and most desperate needs. Of course, Felipe Calderón must do something in this regard. Fox's shadow is a big one, and this little man must try to escape from Fox's biggest mistakes. So he just came with a formula that I don't know why no statesman thought of before: Instead of negotiating, instead of working to solve a very difficult problem, he declared he will unilaterally declare peace with EZLN. I wonder if this year's Nobel prize will go to such an abnegated, smart and selfless person. Man, we could take this same solution to Darfur, to Israel/Palestine, to Congo, to Chechnya... If rulers all over the world start declaring peace unilaterally, all of the world's problems will be solved! What comes next, he will declare (maybe as Salinas did) that we are a first world country? Poor people are only sad reflections in the sand but don't exist in his reality? Please, Mexicans: The man is clearly schizoid. Are you happy with Foxilandia? It seems that alternate realities are part of the PAN's action program. If you are not satisfied with Fox's results (who is?), don't vote for this guy. We will all regret it.
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From my workplace: Intelectual property

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 08/25/2005 - 14:24
I work in a technical role at the Institute for Economics Research in UNAM, Mexico's largest university. This is an institute with relatively low computer awareness, although with a slight (or not so?) left-leaning political balance. I have found some points with which I can engage in interesting conversations with people here, but still, I am still amazed when I see something directly related to my Free Software interest areas. Today, I got in the institute's mailing list the link to a simple but interesting article called Intellectual-property rights and wrongs, written by the 2001 Nobel winner Joseph E. Stiglitz - It speaks about the common conceptions (and misconceptions) about intellectual property, and how the Free Software (well, I must admit - he used the "Open Source" wording) has proved many of its principles wrong. But even more, he goes on talking on how the strong IP protection can hinder development, how patents can be wrongly assigned (and how they have halted development even in industrial areas, even 100 years ago), and how IP protection is killing thousands of medication-deprived people. Nice article to point people at :)
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