The American People are angry…

July 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent, Vermont) says it all…

The American People are angry. Bernie Sanders addressing the US Senate.

The top 1% of Americans own 40%.
The bottom 60%, together, own less than 2% of wealth!
And the bottom 30% less than a third of one per cent!

Can we please end all the non-issues, the bickering, the filibustering and badmouthing in Congress and the media before somebody’s addressed these issues exhaustively?

Holler!

Debtocracy (2011)

April 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Here’s a pretty insightful full-length documentary on the crisis of unbridled capitalism. It addresses the obvious European, and more specifically, the Greek economic crisis, but it draws parallels with Latin American crises, also pointing out how those countries have found alternative ways of getting their economies on track. By Katerina Kitidi and Aris Hatzistefanou.

Debtocracy

 

It can be seen in full and with English, Serbian, German and Spanish subtitles.
Great to understand what it is that’s plaguing the world right now.

On anti-sharia hysteria

March 3, 2012 Leave a comment

There is something about one’s level of education and the fears you live with.

Islam in its ungraspable complexity, and Muslims of all flavours and sizes in particular, have been made into the world’s scarecrow number one in the last 11 years, leading to tragically insensitive and largely ineffective decisions to make Muslims’ lives a tad bit more miserable in the hope of winning their love and support against the world’s evil powers. Because, no matter how reliably airport security picks out the Muslim-looking folks for closer inspection – it is purely random, after all – or how slanderously all Muslims are lumped together with death-spewing hatemongers who use Islam as a rally cry for support, at the end of the day, world Muslimhood should also, apparently, feel compelled to speak out against their brothers and sisters in faith, as it were, as if one was responsible for another’s actions and words and they all had one big conference call every night, to discuss everybody’s performance as harmless Muslims that day. (I say that because all Christians do in fact have that and make a point of publicly agreeing or disagreeing with everything other self-proclaimed Christians do. Little-known fact.)

Long story short, the U.S. has had its own ignorance-inflicted share of Muslim scaremongering, from security screenings to media shitstorms about mock outcries against cultural centers being built in allegedly insensitive locations (and lo, now open for everybody). And much of that hurtful confusion is owed to political leaders unwilling to take a firm and repeated stand against the denigration of a whole world religion. After all, even by the general rule that Americans only find out about the world once their armies have killed some people there, Americans really ought to know their shit about the Middle East by now. The U.S. supported the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 70s, and sold weapons to Iran and Iraq in their first gulf war in the 80s, that was before they invaded Iraq themselves in 1991, and again in 2003. Seriously, all this, and Americans still pronounce “Iraq” and “Iran” as if they were Apple products?!

But I’m not just saying Americans are gullible idiots. (Heh. See, I just did.) In Switzerland, where I’m sat, a disquieting majority of knobheads upright citizens have thought it a brilliant idea to insert a ban on minarets into the federal constitution. – A building regulation in the most fundamental legal document of our state, mind you. For a thing most Swiss have never laid eyes on in real life. Talking bout a threat! The purported aim of the ban was to put a stop to extremist preachers, and to signal that their message of hate and religious division would not be accepted. Having said such things, the proponents then went on to push the referendum in months and months of media controversy and, when no words would carry the bullshit anymore, a symbol language that was both ingenious and scary on all levels. It was self-evident that the minaret was far from being the point. But it was a great opportunity to give the simpletons of the land a good fright. Minarets are the gateway structures to muezzins and sharia law, the motto went.

And it worked! New minarets are now as forbidden as they’ve been rare (a mere 5 in the whole country, which may remain as they are). And it’s once again been established: Them Muslims are secretly out to get us (us, I assume, meaning the notoriously non-churchgoing, secular, nominal “Christians”?)

The next thing on the anti-Muslim menu seems the ban of burkas, or arranged marriages (both actually being made an issue in Switzerland). Again, whatever the problem is, it’s not the burka itself, or an oppressed woman, as the pretext often goes. The same lamebrain reasoning as with minarets expects Muslim patriarchs to rethink their oldfashioned gender concepts once their wives and daughters are forbidden to wear a burka outdoors, or once they file a report against their own family, presumably. Sometimes it’s that simple, isn’t it! Who sticks to facts and improving average people’s everyday lives if exploiting fears and myths get you so many more votes?

And so it goes on and on, Islam and Muslims make great smoke-bombs in the political arena (not literally, you dunce!), to blind the voters so they don’t see what’s really wrong with the many things that are wrong (redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top, anyone? Weakening of civil rights, corporate-owned governments?), and instead suspect an inherent danger in that which seems to come in from the outside, from foreign lands, which should not be allowed a place among us, or worse, get to have a say in who we are – because frankly, we’re quite unsure of who we are as it is.

So it won’t take long till the next brainfart drifts across the great pond and stinks up our parliaments and councils: Sharia law must be banned. Hey, it’s not an actual legal code to begin with, but it must definitely be banned. Never mind that people know little to nothing about sharia law, or about what it says in their constitutions right now. It’s only a matter of weeks till populists break out ye olde Islam again to present themselves as the keepers of whathaveyou, the defenders of the whatnot and the saviours of the makeupyourownfears, leaving us less of ourselves in the process of “defending our values”.

In this wonderful article, Reza Aslan and Harris Zafar hold the trembling hand of the less well-informed folks to go through some of the main points of sharia fun facts and the principles of religious freedom, as stated in the Very First Amendment of the United States Constitution (which is the same amendment that allows the KKK to have parades through your town, and you wouldn’t wanna do away with that!)

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. (Ratified 12/15/1791.)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And while we’re at it, the Swiss constitution ain’t too bad either (for now.)

Art. 8 Equality before the law
1 Everyone shall be equal before the law.

2 No one may be discriminated against, in particular on grounds of origin, race, gender, age, language, social position, way of life, religious, ideological, or political convictions, or because of a physical, mental or psychological disability.

3 Men and women shall have equal rights. The law shall ensure their equality, both in law and in practice, most particularly in the family, in education, and in the workplace. Men and women shall have the right to equal pay for work of equal value.

4 The law shall provide for the elimination of inequalities that affect persons with disabilities.

and:

Art. 15 Freedom of religion and conscience

1 Freedom of religion and conscience is guaranteed.

2 Everyone has the right to choose freely their religion or their philosophical convictions, and to profess them alone or in community with others.

3 Everyone has the right to join or to belong to a religious community, and to follow religious teachings.

4 No one shall be forced to join or belong to a religious community, to participate in a religious act, or to follow religious teachings.

Now with all this being said (a long walk, but worth it), here it is:

A nice, patient and soothing piece on why Americans who’ve done their homework get much better sleep at night.

Reza Aslan and Harris Zafar: Those defending US Constitution from sharia must have failed high school civics.

And that’s the Christian Science Monitor for ya…

Israeli cabinet surprised by status quo

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Haaretz reports how Benjamin Netanyahu apparently made a statement on the future of the Israeli state and its land claims in the Palestinian West Bank. The cabinet was left in shock.

“The debate over how many Jews and how many Palestinians will be between the Jordan and the sea is irrelevant,” Netanyahu said. “It does not matter to me whether there are half a million more Palestinians or less because I have no wish to annex them into Israel. I want to separate from them so that they will not be Israeli citizens. I am interested that there be a solid Jewish majority inside the State of Israel. Inside its borders, as these will be defined,” Netanyahu explained.

Aides of the PM realized how politically explosive his statements were and asked all those present in the room to avoid disseminating the details.

In other words: Let’s huddle up within the ever-expanding borders of Israel – which we’ve drawn ourselves to begin with, carved out of what were Palestinian territories that are here for us to take and keep as we see fit.

It’s hard to count the ways in which this announcement is not news and utterly unshocking to begin with. One has to wonder what everybody else’s plans for Israel’s territorial future was if this policy, pursued for decades now, leaves you uneasy.

It has been no secret that Israel can only keep up its ‘Jews-first’ policies in a state where Jews make up the overwhelming majority – currently that’s 80%. Which is why Israel has in fact annexed the Syrian Golan Heights (sparsely populated at the time), but not the whole of the West Bank with significant Palestinian towns. And Israel has most certainly not tried to annex Gaza, with nearly half a million Palestinian inhabitants. Israel is, however, steadily carving into the West Bank territory with expanding settlements taking over the larger metropolitan area of Jerusalem and other larger settlements near the Israeli border – all of this protected and facilitated by the Separation Barrier aka “The Wall” or “The Obstacle” which runs deep inside/east of the Green Line that is supposed to delineate the border. So the West Bank is more likely to be carved up into Jewish settlement areas with the odd Palestinian town locked in between them and the Israeli army directing traffic to and fro. Not for nothing does the UN speak of the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Occupied, not annexed.

It has all the benefits of dominating and exploiting the land for one’s purposes with none of the guilt for disenfranchising its majority population. – Because, after all, they are not one’s citizens.

I was going to post this a couple of weeks ago, but now with the big racket about the upcoming UN Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood, one has to wonder how a proper, separate state would NOT fit in with what Netanyahu postulates in the quote above. Maybe they’re just not done breaking up their neighbouring territories to their hearts’ content. Look at the map below to get an idea of how Palestinians are helplessly subjected to the same old structural violence in the form of settlement expansion, crippling roadblocks and at-a-whim lock-downs and invasions of Palestinian towns. Even the World Bank has published a damning critique of the occupation – and if you look at the kind of ecological and humanitarian crimes they are usually happy to finance, that means a lot for the Near East.

One of many of Philippe Rekacewicz’ brilliant maps at Le Monde Diplomatique. (Click the map for a bigger picture)

Left: Jerusalem. Right: West Bank. Israeli settlements (orange) cut deep into and through Palestinian territories (dark green areas, split by light green corridors), isolating them from one another.

 

Never forget September 11

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s hard to believe how long it’s been since an evil conspiracy of fanatics attacked a free, democratic country, tossing freedom-loving people into brutal dictatorship.

September 11, 1973. General Augusto Pinochet and his friends at the CIA overthrew democratically elected President Salvador Allende. 17 years of torture, murder and “disappearances” ensued.

What America won’t do to keep the world free and peaceful…

.

Official documents proving the CIA played an active role in the coup, by Peter Kornbluh.

And under the Freedom of Information Act, the State Department’s own documents on CIA activities in Chile.

Burning and looting… your rights

August 28, 2011 Leave a comment

After the recent riots in cities around the UK, the initial cluelessness the government demonstrated (Cameron waited 3 days before he returned from his vacation in Tuscany) quickly turned into a clampdown on public disorder, accompanied by somewhat predictable blaming and name-calling.

Obviously, no political leader would voluntarily jump into the limelight to take all the blame for any kind of chaos himself, not unless he really has no way of denying it anymore. But the way the government and too many media made public their inverted reading of the events, by not only blaming the actual crimes (theft, looting, arson) on the wrongdoers, which would be fair enough, but by turning around the whole chain of causality, away from top-down budget cuts deeply affecting the poor first and foremost, pointing at the very institutions that had only just been slashed, to claim that it was social benefits that had actually created a class of disaffected youths, ungrateful and lazy. — That really took some gall and guts.

To give you one example of this poorly evidenced line of argument, seemingly pulled out from behind his ears, this Brendan O’Neill, who dares call himself a Leftist (left of whom?), doesn’t quite convince me.
For those of you who read German, I’ve written a German comment on it since a  monthly Swiss rag picked his article for a re-print in translation (the paper having a past of glorifying Nazi-friendly politicians makes all the more sense to me.)

Now, instead of re-iterating my points in English, I’d prefer to point you to the stellar Naomi Klein who manages to put it all into perspective and draw the big, scary picture unfolding in front of us with examples from Iraq, Argentina, the UK and Canada…

Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery

Please read the whole thing if you haven’t. Here’s just a little appetite-whetter, after the jump:

Read more…

In this journey you’re the journal…

June 20, 2011 Leave a comment

For those of you who missed out cause they were too busy doing something else in the late 80s, like working two jobs to make ends meet (Hi Mom), listening to horrible synth-rock (no excuses), or crapping your diapers (not your fault), this is a little pointer to where I got my tagline from. It’s the epic track “Follow the Leader” by Eric B. and Rakim.

I vividly remember squatting in front of my hand-me-down radio in my bedroom when I was around 12, fingers ready on the “rec” and “play” buttons, preying on anything I might like, to catch it on tape. I had no idea where to get some of this music from, even if I’d had the kinda pocket money to buy it. And since the radio was so rubbish and the built-in microphone would automatically record everything on top of the radio broadcast, I had a piece of cardboard fitted to block the microphone, and sellataped it all around the radio, to make it soundproof… (Yeah, I know.) It all looked like Robinson Crusoe’s first radio cobbled together from driftwood. But it was what I had to start collecting this new, exciting music that had started to enter my world.

Eric B. and Rakim’s “Paid in Full” was some of the very earliest rap music I ever taped. Needless to say, I kept that tape for years and years, despite the hissy quality and the sounds of me coughing or my sister barging into the room. Little later, The duo’s track “Follow the Leader” is what really blew my mind and almost moved me to tears, even though I never got to hear the last minute of the track till years later, cause the tape had run out in the last third of the song. Nevertheless, even then this was a truly legendary track, without a doubt. Nobody rapped this smoothly and in such a complex pattern back in 1988. 80s rap till then was mostly shouty one-liners. And Rakim did change the game. So as a kind of tip-of-the-hat to the beginning of one of my own greatest passions, hip-hop music, I want to start out my new blog with this track.

To new beginnings…

Eric B. and Rakim – Follow the Leader (Youtube)

Short link: http://wp.me/p1DZIc-kn

From the old to the new…

June 19, 2011 Leave a comment

The legendary first post. The first, blank page in a new book. We’ve all been there before.

Noble intentions. Plans and announcements. Sheer impatience with the great things lying ahead of this first of many… Sharp cries for attention in this jaded world overflowing with me-messages.

And the obligatory claim that “this is something entirely different,” “the next level”, “the new shit,” “what y’all been waiting for.”

But let’s get real.

I just wanted a space that was mine to fill, and mine only. And to populate these pages, I’m going to draw on posts I’ve made over at my old home, Schreibkrampf, and pick some of those I think have aged well. While Schreibkrampf (Writer’s Cramp) started out as an ambitious collaboration of three people that quickly lost steam and petered out into a once-a-month one-man blog (yours truly), and while we posted in both German and English, consider this here my solo blog for the English-speaking world. That needn’t mean I won’t write about things outside of Planet Anglo, but I’ll cover them in English. The worst that could happen is that somebody picks up a bit of news or a slice of knowledge that wasn’t going to make it across the language border… well, till I came along, as it were.

Nuff talk now, coming up (see below i.e. before this post) is my selection of previous scribblings. A “best-of” compilation, if you will. And some brandnew additions from there on out. I can’t wait to see what will become of all this myself….

Colbert on O'Reilly's…

June 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Make that “on O’Reilly’s sack.”

In a match of wits, the two TV pundits exchange pleasantries and insights as Colbert offers his full adulation to his idol: the one and only Papa Bear.

What’s amazing is that Colbert not once breaks character as a staunch advocate of conservative politics, even as he’s taking the piss like a horse, and production assistants behind the cameras giggle audibly, and that O’Reilly, in turn,  not once breaks the Fox News mold of naive sternness, alternating with helpless puzzlement at the world as a whole. O’Reilly seems so hellbent to not be pulled in by Colbert and win the shiny, imaginary Fox News trophy of non-satire, he can’t even manage a single funny comeback. It’s like watching a professional carpenter bringing a file to a nailing.

Mitts up for Romney!

June 13, 2011 Leave a comment

In his recurring and stellar segment “The Word”, Stephen Colbert makes a case for Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy. After all, with the kind of record as a business man that Romney boasts, America can only turn out a lot slimmer, healthier and more profitable. – Or, then again, not.

If only his companies still existed to tell their stories of success.

(Click image for the video.)

Romney 2012 - Sometimes Good