Breivik killed 92 people. And that is a horrible, terribly sad atrocity. But what is coming could even be worse and that is that Breivik is about to get a global platform to promote hatred: his trial.
What we know about terrorism is that terrorists don’t need to win elections. They don’t need to form a coalition governments or win by a majority. Terrorists win when they recruit an incredibly small amount of like minded people to commit similar atrocities. Think of how few people it took to undertake the mass murders of 9/11, of March 11 in Madrid, of July 7 in London. So while the vast majority of the population of Europe will be horrified by Breivik, Breivik is not targeting them. He is targeting the tiny minority who thinks like him, who thinks that the socialists governments of Europe are destroying the ethnic purity of Europe and whatever other neonazi theories that he has. And if we give him a global media platform he will get those few new terrorist recruits. Breivik’s trial itself is a bigger danger than Breivik. It is the trial Bin Laden did not get.
Breivik deserves a fair trial. But not the publicity he seeks. I hope the whole procedures take place without TV cameras in the court house.
When they say there can be no peace between Israelis and Palestinians they are mistaken. There is “peace” already or at least there is no war. During the last 2 years relatively few people died in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (268 since January 2009 to be exact – out of which 45 were Palestinians killed/executed by Palestinians), and I say “relatively” because this is in great contrast with Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur and many other areas of the world where tens of thousands have died. As a comparison, in USA alone 41,000 people die every year in car accidents. Indeed it is more likely to die in a car accident in USA than at war if you are a Palestinian or an Israeli.
During my visit to Israel I was surprised to see how many Palestinians actually live in Israel, this is something that is not well known outside of Israel. Arabs constitute about 20% of Israel’s total population. At the Tel Aviv beaches for example, the blend is magic. You see Israelis surfing next to Arab women who go into the water fully dressed. And some actually swim fully dressed. I had never seen anything like that. Israelis and Arabs, side by side, sharing their free time at the beach. I hope this is part of what the peaceful future of Israelis and Palestinians will be like.
If you compare other armed conflicts with the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you will see that while this is the one with the most media attention globally it is surprisingly the least deadly. I took the time to make a comparative chart based on the estimated number of casualties (including civilians) that can be found on Wikipedia. In most cases the spread between high and low estimates is very large, but the figures give a good general idea of the order of magnitude of each conflict. Of course it would be a mistake to focus only on the number of casualties when comparing different armed conflicts, there are many other factors to be considered, such as the number of indirect deaths, the number of displaced people, the amount of psychological damage caused, the long-term effects on the affected regions, just to name a few. And it is true that the Palestinians suffer many humiliations in their daily life like for example when they try to travel from Gaza to the West Bank or even around the West Bank. But casualties is still a clear measure of war.
I hope this post is not understood as an attempt to minimize the important of the conflict. I sincerely hope that something like the Oslo Accords gets implemented in the near future so the Palestinians can have their own country. While the situation now is not a war, it is not a solution either. But it is important to put things in perspective and realize that Palestinians in Israel and in the Palestinian territories do not live in what we would normally call a war.
Here’s the chart I made:
And here are a couple of pictures I took at the beach during my visit that illustrate what I saw in terms of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying the sea side by side.
To end this post, I leave you with this video I shot during a helicopter ride around Israel. What became very apparent in the helicopter ride is that the paradox of the Palestinians is that they are either in Israel or near Israel and that Israel is so developed compared to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, namely other countries in which Palestinians live, that it is not surprising that the Palestinians would want Israel as it is now. It is hard to say to what point do they want to go to the land of their ancestors and to what point they much prefer the greatly improved land of Israel of today. Indeed it is possible that if the Israelis had done with their country what the Palestinians did with Gaza and instead the Palestinians had reached the level of development in Gaza that Israel has now, that few Palestinians would be wanting to move to Israel or ask that a Gaza looking Israel be returned to them. Before many Israelis wanted the West Bank and Gaza, now few do. So Israelis have mostly given up the hope of a greater Israel. Only the Israeli fanatic settlers still want a Greater Israel. What people never say in this conflict is that this is not a conflict about the Biblical Israel or the Palestine of the 1920s. This is a conflict about what Israel is today and what Palestine is today. And the contrast is drastic. And it is hard to argue what the Palestinians argue that if they got Israel that it would be what today we know as Israel in terms of prosperity and economic development. I have a hard time imagining Israel being the country outside of USA with most Nasdaq traded companies or Nobel Prizes if it was Palestine. This is what happens when people’s past is so different from people’s present.
Lastly I would like to say that while I blame Israelis for not wanting to negotiate with the Palestinians now and I dislike the current position of the government of Israel vis a vis negotiations I think the Palestinians had a great opportunity in Gaza and by electing Hamas after settlers were forced out by force from there they escalated the conflict and made it hard for Israelis to feel comfortable about removing settlers by force from the West bank.
Jerusalem has many teenagers, say 18 yr olds, armed with machine guns, both boys and girls. While I understand this may be necessary I find it creepy and wrong. And what is worse is that my 4 year old boy who is here with us is fascinated with guns, something that I am trying to discourage but it’s not easy with boys that age. As he sees these other “kids”with machine guns he goes and talks to them, asks them if he can also have a machine gun to play with. They laugh but I worry.
On a more positive note here are some pictures of Jerusalem which overall is a fascinating place to visit. But the second picture shows my son Leo admiring the young soldiers.
Friends outside of Spain have been asking me about the ongoing movement that has become known as #spanishrevolution. Here’s the summary of what this movement is about:
People have become increasingly frustrated by the many problems in Spain: over 20% unemployment rate and over 30% youth unemployment rate, incompetent politicians unable to deal with the effects of the crisis, extremely high housing prices both for rental and purchase, a mortgage system that ties mortgage holders for life to the bank if the real estate is sold for under the loan amount, and a general discontent with the status of the political landscape (especially the effective two-party system of the center-right People’s Party and the center-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party). The #spanishrevoution is an internet movement that was started by leading figures in the internet including top bloggers and internet entrepreneurs to harness the distress of the Spanish people into action ahead of this past weekend’s elections. The most active supporters of the movement have moved from the internet to the streets gather in camps at key locations of many Spanish cities, like the Plaza del Sol in Madrid, where they discuss the changes they want to bring about and are planning to stay for the time being. Each camp is autonomous, there is no central organ coordinating the movement and many sleep in public squares in protest.
The #spanishrevolution did not start as a unified movement, but is rather the result of an informal merger between different movements with similar, but not equal, goals. There seems to be broad consensus that the protests on May 15th (aka the 15M movement) organized by Democracia Real Ya (DRY) were the spark that ignited #spanishrevolution. The tagline of Democracia Real Ya is: we are people, not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers (in Spanish: “no somos mercancía en manos de políticos y banqueros”). You can read the manifesto of that movement in English here. The protests were a huge success: more than 80,000 all over Spain took to the streets to protest against citizens being left behind during the crisis and against corruption.
DRY proposed to follow the lead of two role models; Iceland and the Arab revolts. In Iceland, citizens were able to make use of democratic powers to put some of the persons responsible for the crisis behind bars and to initiate important constitutional reforms. What DRY wanted to leverage from the Arab revolts was the incredible catalytic effect provided by the social networks, the mobile networks and internet in general.
Some of the most important figures/initiators of the 15M movement are Fabio Gándara (who has been part of the movement since the beginning), Jon Aguirre Such (DRY’s spokesperson) and Olmo Gálvez (whom El País calls a social networking “crack”). It’s interesting to point out that all three of them are quite young, between 26 and 30, and didn’t know each other until shortly before 15M. The people who have joined #spanishrevolution, however, are very heterogeneous, covering all age ranges, professions and social classes.
After the May 15th protests, a small group of participants decided to camp out at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid (known as #acamapadasol). More and more people joined #acampadasol, and eventually the “acampadas” spread out to other cities all over the country on the 18th, fueled by a surge of outrage that spread like wildfire after police removed the peaceful protestors from Plaza del Sol. By that time, #spanishrevolution had already been born. While there are no exact numbers, it is safe to say that there are tens of thousands of people who have been or are at #acampadasol, and many more in other cities. Most of the sit-ins had food delivery donations and some even had their own daycare. They also received legal assistance from two lawyers, David Bravo and Javier de la Cueva. The movement has even found supporters in other countries, with protests popping up in cities like Berlin, Paris and New York to show solidarity with the movement in Spain.
While DRY never “officially” merged with #spanishrevolution and still wants to be a movement of its own, it basically has the same goals and therefore supports the movement. There was another movement that is often mixed with #spanishrevolution, called #nolesvotes. Fon my company, supports #nolesvotes by giving out free Foneras and passes so people have free access to the internet during their sit-ins. #nolesvotes translated means “don’t vote for them”, referring to all the political parties that passed a ridiculous law (the Ley Sinde, on which I will not elaborate here) which was a slap in the face for the rule of law in Spain. Just as with DRY, #nolesvotes, started by the lawyer Carlos Sánchez Almeida, is/was a separate movement, but again had goals that overlapped with the general idea of #spanishrevolution. Most people don’t make a distinction between the individual movements anymore and rather see them as unified under the concept of #spanishrevolution now. Leaders of nolesvotes include my friends and partners Ricardo Galli and Eduardo Arcos, fellow professor at IE Enrique Dans and leading Spanish entrepreneur Julio Alonso.
On a side note, some people also voted with chorizos inside the envelopes. A chorizo is a typical Iberian sausage, but the term is also used to refer to corrupt politicians. While the initiative #votachorizo prompted voters to print out a picture of a chorizo, some literally put a slice of sausage in the envelope to voice their discontent with corruption and incompetence in Spain’s political landscape.
In the end, what started with a few ideas and different initiatives on the web has become a huge movement on the streets all over Spain and in many other countries. As I already mentioned, most of the initiators didn’t know each other at the beginning and only met in person a couple of weeks before the 15M event. The main platforms enabling them to join forces were social networks like Facebook and Tuenti, and of course platforms like Twitter and hundreds (or even thousands) of blogs that supported the movements and spread the word. The sit-in at Plaza del Sol even has its own TV channel, with a mind-blowing 11 million accumulated views so far. Around 45 million people live in Spain.
The local and legislative elections of May 22nd gave encouraging results for the #spanishrevolution. Like an internet start up it seems to have reached its first million people as that is the number of people who have not voted the large 2 political parties. On this election the vote for alternative parties and the votes “en blanco” or for nobody in particular grew by a million. Now PP supporters like to argue that this was really a strong defeat of the ruling socialists whose votes went down by 1.6 million and a win for PP whose votes went up by 400K but this does not explain why PP did not get all or most of the votes of PSOE. While the exact effect of #spanishrevolution on the election will not be known what is clear is that small parties and general discontent grew at the expense of the ruling party and so did the conservative opposition.
- Protests: Has the Revolution Come to Spain? (time.com)
- Spain Protests Rock Nation, Tens Of Thousands Fill The Cities Over Joblessness (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Lede: Protesters Rally in Madrid Despite Ban (thelede.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Spanish voters head to the polls, as city square protests continue (guardian.co.uk)
- Update on “Spanish Revolution” protests: riot police surrounding protesters in Madrid (boingboing.net)
Unlike most, I don’t think that the worst is yet to come in Japan. Based on what I have read, I believe that what we have seen so far is likely going to be most, or all, the damage there is going to come out of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear accident combination. And that is a already a lot. With maybe 15K people dead, half a million homeless, $200bn in damage, I don’t understand why the media focuses so much on a potential major nuclear accident with casualties in Tokyo, something that I can’t see how it would happen. There’s enough non nuclear tragedy to focus on and to help with right now than to make people panic over a highly unlikely event.
I am an entrepreneur, and a big part of my life is assessing risk. After obsessing with the Japanese problem (I have dear Japanese friends, Fon has employees in Japan, and Japan is our second most important market at Fon) my own impression is that we have a 20% chance of Fukushima being a Chernobyl. A significant but not overwhelmingly high chance. And even if the worst happens and it is a Chernobyl, because Fukushima faces the ocean, the prevailing winds are westerly and it is surrounded by mountains, I just can’t see how Tokyo (or any major city) would be affected by the nuclear accident. In the case of Chernobyl, Kiev, a major city that is half the distance to the accident than Fukushima is to Tokyo, was not affected. Kiev went on with its life after Chernobyl.
And then there is the anti nuclear panic that we are seeing these days. People around the world are very concerned about nuclear power and I can understand the psychology of this. People fear what they fear, not what is more likely to kill them. People fear planes more than cars, and flying is safer than driving. Coconuts kill more people every year than sharks, and I don’t see people reacting to coconuts as they react to sharks. Going back to nuclear, it is hard to argue that Fukushima is representative of the nuclear power plants of today. The Fukushima nuclear plant was built in the 60s. It is so old that it should have been decommissioned last month and somehow it got an extension to operate. The regulators who approved this are probably feeling horrible right now. But if there’s anything Fukushima should teach us, it should be not to avoid nuclear energy, but to be more careful with nuclear, to understand the risks. Nuclear energy is dangerous, but it is clearly not as dangerous as driving a car for example, and nobody is advocating an end to the car industry. We drive because we love the convenience and we try to minimize risks, and the same should be true of the nuclear industry. Nuclear energy is cheap and climate neutral. But it is risky, and to build nuclear plants in seismic faults, as it is done for example in Japan and California, is a questionable practice. Fukushima shows us that all our precautions were not enough. What I hope that comes out of this nuclear accident is: no major radiation leaks a la Chernobyl (i.e. that the 20% does NOT happen), a reassessment of the industry practices and safer plant design. I also hope that this leads to more investment in solar and wind, alternatives that while not as efficient are certainly safer and simple. And of course more energy conservation in general. In the meantime my heart is with those heroes who are fighting the nuclear accident right now at the risk of their own lives.
Lastly I would like to say that I know that this article may come back and haunt me if in the next hours we do have a major escalation of events in Fukushima and Tokyo has to be evacuated. But I am not saying here that is impossible that this happens. I just think that at a time in which media goes on and on about how dangerous the situation is, I felt I had to argue why they may be exaggerating.
Fon’s WiFi network is by far the largest in Japan with over a million hotspots of which over half a million are on at any one time. Normally the Fon network is free to those who share WiFi (known as Foneros) and other users pay. Given the current emergency in Japan, and the failure of some mobile networks as a result of the earthquake, Fon has decided to open our network to all of those in Japan. The software changes required are being worked on at our headquarters in Madrid and will be ready in an estimated 3 hours or around 6pm Spanish time. Japan is 7 hours ahead of us so it will be around 1am in Japan when all our hotspots are open to the general public. We hope those stranded or in need find the Fon network useful. We also encourage owners of Fon WiFi routers who may not have their Fon WiFi routers (Foneras) connected to connect them to help anyone who may need connectivity. All this is being done in collaboration with our friends at Softbank who currently distribute Foneras in Japan. We would like to send our condolences to the families of those who died in this sad tragedy and wish all in Japan a quick recovery from this natural disaster.
Update: Work done in Madrid, the Fon WiFi network in Japan is now open for all to use until the emergency is over. I would like to thank our colleagues at Softbank, our engineers in Spain and above all the Japanese foneros who make this possible.
- Fon Makes Entire Wi-Fi Network Free In Japan (gigaom.com)
- Japan Gets Free Wi-Fi From FON Until Quake Emergency Ends (nytimes.com)
- Fon ended 2010 with 3.35 million WiFi hotspots, €28 million in revenues (eu.techcrunch.com)
Wael Ghonim over video at #TED. Before the Egyptian revolution everyone was scared except a few and those were beaten up. We are not happy when we see some Egyptians eating trash while others steal millions. The Egyptian uprising started with a Facebook page honoring man tortured and killed by Mubarak. First demonstration was thousands of people in Alexandria, a silent stand. The regime attacked them regardless of how peaceful they were. But people kept protesting, and Tunisia came. Wael was detained for 12 days, blindfolded, handcuffed, he says he does not want to talk about how he was treated. I assume he was tortured. Then he was let go and when he did he saw a changed world. When he saw that he wrote “we are going to win because we don’t understand politics”. We are going to win because we are willing to stand up for our dreams. Egyptians felt freedom approaching. The power of the people is much stronger than people in power.
I read this article from El País (in spanish) in which El Houssine Majdoub, a Moroccan journalist, blames the West and its “repugnant role” for the suffering of Muslim citizens in their own countries.
When I was growing up in Argentina these types of accusations were common. Whatever was wrong in our countries we only had the “yankees” to blame for. This theme was especially dear to military dictators who frequently played the nationalist card while trained in USA. But then look at what happened. Latin America, a region supposedly controlled by the US, liberated itself. In most countries a better, independent local leadership emerged. In others, such as Venezuela, the military rebranded itself and continued its “Arab dictator like habits”. But overall I would consider today the leadership of Latin America much better, more democratic than that of the Muslim world. And I think that the Muslim world is now, where Latin America was in the 70s. Latin America then was a region dominated by nationalist, dictators who invoked “patria”, “familia” and “religion” to stay in government. Now it is mostly democratic, not perfect but much freer and better.
So if Latin American could liberate itself from its own dictators, Arab countries can do the same. But first its citizens need to stop blaming the West for its problems and focus on their own dictators. Muslim nations are not dictatorships because EU and USA like them so. They are not democracies because their citizens put up with “repugnant” local leaders to use El Houssine Majdoub language. Leaders in EU and USA have to deal with these dictators because they have no other choice. Moreover EU and USA have historically tried to get rid of some of them such as the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi but the results were mixed. If you think USA liked collaborating with Ben Ali you are wrong. USA’s dislike of Ben Ali was made clear thanks to Wikileaks’ cables: “Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems”. In short, not an ideal partner.
So the solution in the Arab world has to be home grown and it is to get rid of their dictators as Latin America did in the 80s. To replace them with leaders who are honest, who govern transparently and who defend their country’s rights and needs. Leaders like Lula of Brazil or Michelle Bachelet of Chile.
Tunisians have finally rebelled on their own, but there are many, many other corrupt and barbaric dictators left in power in the Muslim world. These leaders are great at exploiting their people and telling them how they “protect” them from the West. These were common tactics in the time of General Galtieri in Argentina for example, Falklands invasion included. But just as Latin America nations such as Chile and Argentina, have gotten rid of populist leaders the Muslim world can do the same. The Muslim countries can do it on their own. They may try to export terrorism, as Latin America did, but that will fizzle out as Muslims earn their human rights and self determination.
There are friends and friends in life. Some you see all the time. Some you see less than you would like, but when you do see them you feel very close to them. To me, Luis Moreno Ocampo belongs to this group. This post is about Luis and his activities as the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. As you read this post you will realize that Luis is not just my buddy. He is your buddy as well. And the buddy of all of those who believe that those who commit War Crimes and Genocide should go to jail.
I was an admirer of Luis Moreno Ocampo before I became his friend. I admired him because he had successfully prosecuted the criminals who kidnapped and killed my 17 year old first cousin David Horacio Varsavsky in Argentina as well as 20,000 other innocent victims during the so called “Dirty War” in the late 70s. Growing up Jewish in Buenos Aires and hearing about the Holocaust I did not imagine that at the young age of 16 I was going to live through a smaller version of the same phenomenon in my native town. While the Dirty War was not targeted exclusively against Jews, the military who conducted the assassinations were openly antisemitic. Jews represent less than 1% of the Argentine population, they were around 10% of those murdered, David Horacio Varsavsky included. It is still a sad mystery as to what would make the Argentine military choose my cousin as a victim. In our research all we could find out was that it was a “mistake”, that they were looking for somebody else. Well my aunt who is still alive cries about this “mistake” every day of her life. And these “mistakes” happened because when regimes systematically violate Human Rights to stay in power they end up killing not only those who oppose itself a crime, but many more die in the crossfire. And that is what is happening in a much larger scale in Sudan where millions of aunts Sara are crying over the death of their loved ones.
This week in Manhattan Luis Moreno Ocampo described his view of the conflict in great detail to me. This is what Luis Moreno Ocampo says about Omar AlBashir. Omar AlBashir, Luis argues, is a genocidal dictator whose actions have resulted in the displacement of 4 million people, the death of 300,000, the destruction of villages, homes, and forced emigration of hundreds of thousands. Moreover those 2.5 million people who still remain in Darfur live in concentration camp conditions without access to human rights and are dying in great numbers of starvation, disease, and murder. Many women and girl survivors are subject to systematic rape. Moreover this conflict is an attack of a Muslim majority on a non Muslim minority and is carried out by Omar AlBashir with the help of paramilitary groups similar to those that the Argentine military used in the Dirty War. It is common for a military dictator to ask their own forces to operate under civilian clothes or to create other paramilitary or proxy groups who fight for them. In this case the Janjaweed. Here’s an AlJazzeera interview of Luis Moreno Ocampo. I chose it because – while very civilized – it corroborates what Luis shared were the main difficulties of his case and that is the complicity of many Arab countries with Omar AlBashir. Unfortunately Luis is now having to fight not only Arab regimes who support Omar AlBashir’s actions but China who benefits from his oil and a bizarre collection of organizations and countries who for different reasons prefer the status quo in spite of the genocide that is taking place. There are even humanitarian organizations normally operating in Sudan who believe that by turning Omar AlBashir into a global criminal, Luis Moreno Ocampo has helped accelerate his genocide. And interestingly not even USA is part of the International Criminal Court which makes his work even more complex. Luis Moreno Ocampo understands of course that everyone who is having a hard time with his arrest warrant for Omar AlBashir, including the Chinese and most Arab nations who support him would actually prefer that the genocide ends. But it is a wave of conflicting interests that has made us all sit aside and contemplate daily death and that is why I admire Luis even more. Because as it was the case in Argentina he has picked a case that is for justice but that makes a lot of governments, organizations and people uncomfortable around the world. This is what the Wikipedia says about his arrest warrant.
It is suspected that al-Bashir would not face trial in The Hague any time soon, as Sudan rejects the ICC’s jurisdiction. Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at McGill University in Montreal and a former war crimes prosecutor, says although he may not go to trial, “He will effectively be in prison within the Sudan itself…Al-Bashir now is not going to be able to leave the Sudan without facing arrest.” The Prosecutor has publicly warned that authorities could arrest the President if he enters international airspace. The Sudanese government has announced the Presidential plane will be accompanied by jet fighters. However, the Arab League has announced its solidarity with al-Bashir. Since the warrant, he has visited Qatar and Egypt. Both countries have refused to arrest him. The African Union also condemned the arrest warrant.
And this is the AlJazzeera interview conducted in a critical tone.
I would like to end this post with a video showing one person, one survivor of the genocide in Darfur in his new life in New York City. For some reason all genocides have some survivors in New York City. It would be nice though to live in a world in which genocides and war crimes just don’t happen anymore.
Last night at the Village Pub in Silicon Valley (Woodside, CA), we launched the Fonera 2.0n WiFi router – available for sale in Europe (€79) on September 15th and in the US ($99) on October 15th. The Fonera 2.0n is similar to the Fonera 2.0g but has a much more powerful processor and is built around the 802.11n standard which means that it has greater range, bandwidth and speed than its predecessor. The launch was attended by 30 of the most important bloggers, Twitterers and news organizations in the world, including The New York Times and The Economist.
Thanks to Loic Le Meur and Geraldine who organised a great event.
Here is the full press release.
A few pictures below. You can also see nice pics of the dinner @briansolis
Martin Varsavsky + Nina Wiegand – FON
Loic Le Meur + Geraldine Le Meur – Seesmic
Bernardo Hernandez – Google
Michael Arrington – TechCrunch
Seth Sternberg – Meebo
Gabe Rivera – TechMeme
Dave McLure – Founders Fund
Jeremiah Owyang – Forrester
Brian Solis – Future Works
Joanna Rees – VSPCapital + John Hamm
Ariel Pohler – Textmarks
Jeff Clavier – SoftTechVC + Babette Clavier
Dave Morin – Facebook
Brittany Bohnet – Google
Randi Zuckerberg – Facebook
Louis Gray – louisgray.com
Jack Dorsey – Twitter
Jennifer Leggio – ZDNet
Robert Scoble – RackSpace
Erik Lammerding – Apple
Paul Boutin – New York Times
Troy Wolverton – San Jose Mercury News
Martin Giles – The Economist
ijustine – Twitter star
@veronica – another Twitter star