Live Streaming the Revolution in Ukraine

December 1, 2013

Kiev

I have spent the last couple of hours fascinated by the live pictures coming from Kiev, Ukraine, via http://www.ustream.tv/channel/aronets    For most of this time, the camera has been on a second floor balcony (?) positioned exactly between the line of armoured police and the mass of demonstrators, apparently near the Presidential headquarters.

At the beginning, the demonstrators were skirmishing with the police, throwing rocks.  Then a police charge forced them back and the demonstrators pulled away, out of sight of the camera.  Once they had gone, the police wheeled in mid-sized dumpsters and collected all the rocks from the street, presumably so they couldn’t be used again.

The police then spent some time erecting a barricade across the street behind which hundreds of them with shields stood in wait.  The protesters gradually came closer once again and, perhaps as a result of negotiations, the barricade was removed.  Now there is a solid line of perhaps sixty cops times many rows deep standing behind riot shields.  The front line of protesters is about thirty yards away.

Kiev2

In the no man’s land between the two forces, camera crews are conducting interviews while security men try to keep the space clear.  The aronets camera is now on the street, filming both sides.   All the audio is is Ukrainian so I have no idea of what’s going on other than what I can see.

As someone once said:  The revolution will be televised.

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Barcelona Redux

August 30, 2012

Long time readers here may recall that I have a great appreciation for the look and feel of Barcelona.

If I didn’t live in Vancouver, Barcelona is probably the place I would pick to spend my time.

It was a great pleasure, therefore, to find the always-interesting Sidewalk Ballet site talking about the city today in a piece that is well worth reading.

Also, as an aside, I was watching the Vuelta a Espana race this morning as it toured along the Galician coast and I was stunned by the beauty of that area.  I have spent a very long time in Spain over the years but very little in the northwest of the country; I have clearly missed out.


Catching Up…

October 30, 2010

It has been interesting to watch the sudden surge of interest (here in the NYT, for example) in the $2 billion house/building that Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani is constructing for himself in Mumbai.  We covered the story way back in May 2008.  I’ll stick with my assessment from then:

I believe one might question how one man has amassed $43 billion in assets. But, once the guy’s got it, I can’t think of any reason why he shouldn’t spend it any way he wants. Looking through the pictures, I don’t much care for this place but if he and his family enjoy it then good for him.


Hanoi’s Subway

October 1, 2010

When I was younger, Hanoi — then the capital of North Vietnam — was subject to massive bombing by the Americans.  Between 1966 and 1972, a huge amount of ordnance was dropped on the city, causing citywide destruction.  How times have changed!

The Vietnamese government has just announced the start of work on a subway transit system for Hanoi.  They will build a 12-station 12.5 km line costing about $1 billion.  The line is scheduled to be open by 2015 and is expected to carry 300,000 passengers a day to ease traffic congestion in the city.  Financing is coming from the French Government ($384m). the Europe Investment Development Bank and the city’s state budget.

The very idea of an entrepreneurial Vietnam with the need for a major subway system financed by Western banks would have been simply unimaginable back in 1972.  Perhaps we should take another look at some of today’s “disaster areas” and recognize that the future can be better than the present. Life does move on.


North Korea: MSM Fails Again

June 1, 2010

North Korea is a truly fascinating country; I have followed developments there for many years.  But you can’t do that in any real sense using mainstream media.  The recent rash of stories after the sinking of the South Korean ship and the revaluation of the North Korean currency have been typical, full of economic and social collapse.  However,

[m]uch of the “evidence” we have for the latest uptick in internal tensions following the currency redenomination consists of recycled stories from unproven or unreliable sources relating anecdotes from small slices of the country. These publicly available sources for North Korea are very subjective and come through the lens of defector groups and humanitarian non-governmental organizations that, quite frankly, have their own agendas. Corroborating these reports is often impossible.

That quote is from a long and very valuable article by Alexandre Mansourov in which he paints a far more complex and interesting picture.

North Korea is not static and inflexible. Indeed, there tends to be a very dynamic picture once you look below the surface … However, there is little or no sign that current tensions, caused by changes in the distribution of power within the leaderships’ core cadre, positioning for succession, or economic reforms are eroding the overall strength of the regime. While such tensions may spill over into society, there have been no signs that they have risen to a level that significantly weakens the regime or have made it feel that drastic action is needed.

Mansourov claims that, far from the American media’s accounts of starvation and State bankruptcy,

Pyongyang is, in fact, on a path of economic stabilization. Last year’s harvest was relatively good—the second in a row—thanks to a raft of developments including favorable weather conditions, no pest infestations, increased fertilizer imports from China, double-cropping, and the refurbishment of the obsolete irrigation system. Thanks to the commissioning of several large-scale hydro-power plants which supply electricity to major urban residential areas and industrial zones, North Korea generated more electricity in 2009 than the year before … Despite a decline in inter-Korean commerce and international sanctions imposed after the North’s missile and nuclear tests in early 2009, foreign trade did not contract in any meaningful way thanks to burgeoning ties with China. Moreover, Beijing seems to be committed to dramatically expanding its direct investments in the development of the North’s infrastructure, manufacturing, and service sectors.

Importantly, Mansourov gives a far more nuanced picture of the significant economic changes that have been pushed through in the last year or so.

In view of the ongoing preparations for the leadership succession, the redenomination could be viewed as a populist measure aimed at inflicting pain on less than 10 percent of the population through wealth redistribution in order to win support from more than 90 percent of the population who still live on state salaries and have not seen any improvement in their life despite burgeoning market activities. North Korea is still fundamentally a socialist society, and Kim Jong Il’s regime probably won some measure of support from the vast majority of North Koreans for its crackdown on corruption and abuses by rich traders and corrupt government officials who benefitted the most from bustling activity in black markets.

The whole article is a very good read and a more than useful corrective to the demonizing pablum we are fed by the MSM.


Fast Train To China

March 9, 2010

Forget the slow boat: the Chinese are planning to build a rail network that will have passengers traveling from London to Beijing in just two days!  The following is from the Daily Telegraph:

China is in negotiations to build a high-speed rail network to India and Europe with trains that capable of running at over 200mph within the next ten years.   The network would eventually carry passengers from London to Beijing and then to Singapore.  It would also run to India and Pakistan … A second project would see trains heading north through Russia to Germany and into the European railway system, and a third line will extend south to connect Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia.

Passengers could board a train in London and step off in Beijing, 5,070 miles away as the crow flies, in just two days. They could go on to Singapore, 6,750 miles away, within three days.  “We are aiming for the trains to run almost as fast as aeroplanes,” said Mr Wang. “The best case scenario is that the three networks will be completed in a decade,” he added.

Wow!  And they seem to be very serious:

China is in the middle of a £480 billion domestic railway expansion project that aims to build nearly 19,000 miles of new railways in the next five years, connecting up all of its major cities with high-speed lines. The world’s fastest train, the Harmony Express which has a top speed of nearly 250mph, was unveiled at the end of last year, between the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. Wholly Chinese-built, but using technology from Siemens and Kawasaki, the Harmony Express can cover 660 miles, the equivalent of a journey from London to Edinburgh and back, in just three hours.

Book me on the opening train!


North Korea: Extreme Laboratory

February 5, 2010

In another life, I wrote a lot about North Korea.  It is a fascinating place with a genius aparatus that keeps it going against all the odds, against common sense, and against the entire world.    If nothing else, it is a massive multi-million person experiment in social control.  Now, although it hasn’t been widely reported, they have actually managed to wipe out ALL private wealth.  We’ll be able to see how that works out, or whether that was going one step too far.

Getting rid of private wealth turned out to be extremely simple.  First, you cancel the currency and tell the people they can swap out their old notes for new ones.  Then you tell everyone that the exchange rate rate will be 100 old notes for one new note.  Then you only allow $30 of exchange per person.  That way, no-one has more than $30.  All other wealth simply disappears*.  That’s a neat trick that couldn’t be tried in any other country in the world.

* not including the cash held by the elite that is in anything other than the Korean currency.