Category Archives: World

a big day in Iraq

After six years, it looks like we’re finally seeing an end (or the beginning of an end) to the occupation of Iraq. US forces aren’t exactly leaving the country, but they’re pulling out of the cities, lowering their profile considerably, and turning over most authority to the Iraqi government.

The response from Iraqis is jubilant; today has been branded National Sovereignty Day. The Guardian has a few choice quotes:

Baghdad’s river-front parklands, which have been reclaimed this year after being deserted during the height of the insurgency and sectarian war, were last night transformed into outdoor dance venues, where audiences of around 3,000 – almost all of them men – danced to the strains of a recently returned Iraqi singer, Salah Hassan, exiled in Dubai for the past five years.

One reveller at an outdoor concert in Baghdad’s zoo, Tamader al-Waeli, 25, said: “It has been a long time since the last big celebration. We have now got rid of the occupiers and will not see them again on Iraqi streets. Baghdad needs the peace of its past life back again, we want to regain what we had, but at the same time the security forces now have extra duties and responsibilities and I hope they carry them out.

Another man at the concert, Ahmed Ebrahim, 35, said: “No words can describe how I feel. The occupation stayed in Iraqi hearts for six years and this is a big occasion that deserves to be a permanent national day in future. The occupiers put me in Bucca [an American-run prison in Iraq]. But now I am free and so is Iraq.”

Good luck, Iraq.

You’ve already heard everything I have to say about this war, but I’ll just reiterate that this was my primary reason to vote for Obama*, so my big payoff is today. The rest of his presidency is frosting.

* and if you think this withdrawal would have happened anyway, read the alternative.

on Twitter and national security

How did Twitter become crucial infrastructure? Seriously, wasn’t it just a month or two ago that Ashton Kutcher and Oprah threatened to drain all possible credibility out of the service? Wasn’t there much wailing and gnashing of teeth? So how did we get from there to the state department asking Twitter to delay a maintenance outage in order to support protests in Iran? I’m not making this up:

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it had contacted the social networking service Twitter to urge it to delay a planned upgrade that would have cut daytime service to Iranians who are disputing their election.

Of course, Clay Shirky understands what’s going on. He gets it so thoroughly that he described exactly what we’re seeing now, in fascinating detail, a month ago. Appropriately, TED gives a video record of his prescient talk:

Shirky presents the idea we’re all getting a crash course on this week: it’s nigh impossible to censor media if everyone produces it for instant distribution. It’s the flipside of the social phenomenon The Onion has poked fun at so well. Now that we’re all capable of reporting, everyone is always sharing everything, whether we like it or not.

a suburb without cars is like a day without coughing

Vauban street sceneBrent pointed out this article in the New York Times about a carfree German suburb:

Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.

Sound familiar? It’s the “car-lite” mode suggested by my favorite urban design manual, Carfree Cities. I’m glad to see communities implementing these principles in the real world; hopefully we can learn more about how to make places like this more common.

The city also looks well-placed as a destination for my upcoming (someday) architectural tour of Europe. Now if we could just get this silly dollar back up to its former value…

Permission To Dream

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the National Space Society has donated telescopes to students in over 20 countries as part of the Permission to Dream project. The project page posted photos of a recent star party in Nepal, featuring one of the donated telescopes:

Click through to the Permission to Dream project page for more photos from the star party. Well done, NSS! If you’d like to donate to the Permission to Dream project, become an NSS member today (and be sure to tell them the San Diego chapter sent you).

[via the NSS on Twitter]

please continue to refrain from invading Iran

Dear Sirs,

Pursuant to the recent findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency, I respectfully request that you continue to refrain from invading the sovereign nation of Iran. I quote from a recent analysis of the Iranian situation:

All materials and centrifuges are under Agency seal and surveillance and the Agency guarantees no diversion without their knowledge. With that in place, what we have is Iran proceeding with a peaceful program, one sanctioned by the UNSC but explicitly allowed by both the IAEA charter and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It doesn’t matter that Iran could make enough enriched uranium to redirect into bomb production in two years – no matter how much the media is trying to imply otherwise – because they simply cannot do that without enough IAEA foreknowledge to enable preventative steps to be taken. Sanctions are therefore being applied because Iran is defying a UNSC resolution which is entirely based upon Iran abrogating the voluntary additional protocol it had previously agreed to.

I understand that the expected near-term availability of upwards of five percent of the American armed forces for new combat operations may encourage you to think in terms of new acquisitions. I further understand that Iran presents the most likely target of opportunity, and also that it has long been your dream to explore and conquer this foreign land. However, I implore you to reconsider this course of action, as it may be viewed as impropriety in world social circles given an utter lack of any justification verifiable by a third party for such an action.

Yours infrequently,
Chris Radcliff