Thursday, March 10, 2005

Mythical Orpheus - the next Balkanization?

Somebody can ask - what is doing in a Signs of the Times type page a mythical hero like Orpheus? I can answer simply by quoting some excerpts from a recent article:

Last week, Greek tour operators usurped one of the most popular and fascinating mythical figures of the Thracians - that of deified royal descendant Orpheus. He is looked upon as one of the chief poets and musicians of antiquity, whose lyre mastery could charm the wild beasts and even draw trees and rocks from their places and stop rivers from flowing.

It is no wonder that the beautiful legend of Orpheus has inspired many artpieces worldwide, including Claudio Monteverdi's Orfeo, the operetta Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach, the Tennessee Williams play Orpheus Descending, Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, a modernized version in Nick Cave's song The Lyre of Orpheus, as well as numerous film retellings.

The Mythical artist has also become a key figure of Greek legend, although various sources mention that Orpheus was borrowed by the Greeks from their Thracian neighbors. With Greek tour operators now advertising their destination as "the land of mythical Orpheus," borrowing has turned into theft.

We see above some very hardly spoken words like "usurped", "theft". At the same time there is a reasonable question - who were these Thracians, who exactly were the Greeks from these ancient times? And as we dig deeper and deeper in this controversial matter, we find more and more confirmations of the millennia old maxim - the history is (re)written by the conquerors...

But let me quote again from the article:

"Even if we want to put it mildly, the Greek move is nothing but a theft, and a theft that makes money," Associate Professor Krassimir Leshtakov told Bulgarian journalists on Wednesday. Leshtakov recalled on how the Troy blockbuster recently boosted fivefold land price where ancient Troy was, as the movie had sparkled a craze among US and German tourists.

Well, well, well... Now the things are more clear. The ongoing discussion is not about the history at all, to put it myself mildly. The discussion, and probably the near future institutional battle is about money. And when something smells of money, the players could be very hostile and powerful indeed.

The sad fact is that obviously many people are forgotten, or even worse - never have known this simple term Balkanization. Let me remind you what is written in the dictionary:

To divide (a region or territory) into small, often hostile units.
[From the political division of the Balkans in the early 20th century.]

No more comments. Let's see what will show us the future...

Monday, March 07, 2005

To smoke, or not to smoke ...

You are probably curious why I'm placing such a Shakespearian questions. And you are probably right. In such a days when the local news are full with paedophilia and women traffic scandals, when there're rumors for another "friendly fire" victim... Well, in such a days to think about smoking, is... probably lack of consideration.

For myself I'm right too. Just an hours ago I was finned for smoking, for smoking at the official, only months ago, "smoking place" in the office building I'm working in. And this in our newly established "democracy". Well, such a thing I didn't experienced even under the Communist totalitarian regime years ago.

One says (since few months - even my cigarette box) - "Smoking kills". Other says nicotine when inhaled is very beneficial. There're places, where you can check the both sides yourselves. I can tell you - I sense something really fishy. In a region, where one of the most famous tobacco brands is grown, we're practically banned from growing it. Not literally of course, but using the proper "economics regulators". The farmers are encouraged to grow another tobacco brands.

Let's bet what's the difference between the brands - nicotine. Yes !!! We are practically not permitted to grow the naturally nicotine rich tobacco brands - so called Oriental brands, and pushed to grow something, which can be used successfully (without any "harm" - nicotine if you don't understand) for fodder, for example.

Eeeh, I'm terribly angry. Where's my cigarette...

Monday, February 21, 2005

A short Follow-up on Smart ID Cards

You probably understand, that I'm earning my tax money in something connected with the smart ID cards. I'm back from a meeting with one lady in a Banking institution. As far as the banking issue is another topic worth of discussion - for example, the famous "666 code", I'll restrict my entry only to the smart ID cards.

Well, after discussing the bank EMV migration plan, our conversation went on more free subjects. One of them being - could the new EMV compliant banking chip card serve as a some kind of ID card? We talked about certificates, electronic signatures, etc. I decided to provoke the lady, telling about the new Estonian ID card.

I was astonished when the lady said exclaiming - what a wonderful approach to have all your electronic identity in one "place"! O sancta simplicitas! - Oh, holy simplicity! - said several hundred years ago Jan Hus. The times were other, this guy was burned on the stake. But his words remained trough the dark ages of Inquisition. They remained as a exclamation mark for those of us who try to see.

Does this lady see what means to have all your electronic identity in one place? I doubt this. Do you see the Signs?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Smart ID Cards - What is behind ?

One recent Signs of the Times page covered the situation with the National ID Cards implementation in USA and UK. I decided to check myself what is the situation worldwide.

First I saw that the Industry response was almost immediate. In a Smart Card Alliance website I found a telling news article. To quote some excerpts:

... Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) and chip-enabled U.S. passports headline the agenda at the Smart Card Alliance 4th Annual Smart Cards in eGovernment Conference and Exhibition on March 9th through 11th, 2005 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. The conference brings government and industry leaders together in an interactive, educational forum to discuss and debate the important business and technical issues involving government adoption of smart cards.

The conference will cover HSPD-12 and FIPS 201 in-depth, providing attendees with critical information that will help them deploy smart cards on the accelerated timeline that HSPD-12 requires. Government adoption of smart card technology is impacting identity management and security far beyond Washington, D.C. and is affecting the entire market," said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance.

... Conference sponsors and exhibitors include Axalto, Oberthur, HID, Gemplus, SuperCom, Atmel and Giesecke & Devrient, all of whom play key roles in top U.S. government projects, such as the Transportation Worker Identity Credential, the Common Access Card, ePassport and the Registered Traveler program.

Next I found one old, but interesting Gartner Analysis. Well, let us see what is the situation in Europe (OK - year 2002 is rather old to depict the situation, but anyway):

After several years of discussion, trials and actual deployment, of the nine European Union (EU) countries where a single number exists that identifies a citizen, only one (Finland) uses a smart ID card on a relatively large scale. Plans for future use exist in three other countries (Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium), but only a few small trials have been carried out.

Probably you have to check something more recent. Wow, how many and different smart card applications - not all ID, but... Who knows what exactly carries the transportation or Health Care Card ?

As I usually do, I decided to check the leading Smart Card producers. Gemplus has a wide ID & Security program. There we see applications as Nationwide ID and E-Passport. If you check Gemplus references, you can see that this growing issue is not something in the future, but rather something real. Oberthur offers similar product, which is capable of storing biometric data. References range from Africa to USA. Giesecke & Devrient concur others with its own Government program. Again we see Chip Passports, National ID, Driving Licenses, and more, and more...

Are there a Balkan signs in this interesting picture? Unfortunately, yes. Bosnia and Herzegovina already pioneers biometric ID cards, Slovenia and Romania have soon to be implemented e-strategy, Bulgaria is in a hurry catching up with a new e-ID Card and E-Passport announce.

Eeeh, the countries from the New Europe are really novel and progressive one. Are they?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Political Assassinations

Well, well, well... You see I'm posting from the Balkan's region. Here we keep a voluminous record with assassinations, wars, clashes and terror. Infamous fame. Probably the more involved in the politics even know the "special" term - balkanization... Yes, when and where the political situation evolves into destructiveness, insecurity and confrontation some observers claim - there is a sign of balkanization.

Assassinations, political assassinations... I'm often visiting one alternative news site. There you can follow the Signs of the Times, but not in their Biblical meaning, although now I'm thinking aloud - why not exactly in the spirit of the Gospel prophesies. No, there you can see, if you choose, the Signs of the recent days, the Signs which mark... what - up to you to decide.

The recent Signs of the Times page covers the most recent political assassination. Let me quote some comments:

It is highly unlikely that Syria was responsible for the murder of Hariri given Hariri's recent resignation over Syrian influence in the Lebanese government and his call for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Let's get real here. Syria is well aware of the drums of war that the US and Israel have been sounding in it's direction. The very last thing they would want to do is gift the US and Israel with a reason to bang those drums even louder. As we said, ALL logic and reason points to Israel and/or the US as being behind this murder. After all, "shattering calm" is what the Mossad and CIA excel at.

Do I agree with this comment? Yes, as a first layer under the cover of the event in question, this is an obvious explanation. Are there more hidden layers below? I think yes again. And this reflects the experience gained from the wretched fate of the area I'm living in. Only the last 10 years keep a record of three political assassinations: one ex-PM, one operative PM and one President. Not to mention the "famous" assassination which ignited a World War.

What are the possible more deeply hidden layers under the Hariri assassination? Can they disclose the hidden agenda of the perpetrators? I think this is one of the most deeply hidden from the humanity secrets and doubt we will be able to discover it so easy.

But who knows? Let us try to uncover the secret. Let us try to see...