Sunday, January 11, 2009

And again... Israel

There are many topics about which one could write in these times. The economic crisis provides a welcome forum for all kinds of hobby augurs (like me, for example) who can show that they always have know it that the economic system cannot work.

But the "Middle East" provides the ultimate topic, one about which people can discuss endlessly - before they take their guns and begin putting more emphasis behind their opinion.

I have been a friend of Israel for many years. I have always been against those who kept lamenting and justifying terrorist acts with the Palestine situation. I have grown up in times when air travel was made unsafe (hijacking of planes by Palestine fighters), I was at the 1972 Olympics in Munich which will always be marred by the horrible acts of Palestine terrorists. I remember the murder of the old guy Klinghoffer, a person in a wheel chair who was pushed to his death on the cruise ship Achille Lauro. All these crimes originated from militant Palestinians, and I had no sympathy for Hamas and Hezbolla as they kept celebrating each "succesful" suicide bombing.

But now, with the latest events in Gaza, the state of Israel has shown that they are not led by wise people but by shortsighted politicians who only have their next election in mind. It appears that the Israeli leadership has nothing learned from their actions in summer 2006 against Hezbolla in Lebanon: that military operation has been a complete failure, and in addition cost the lives of civilians, and cost a lot of credibility and sympathy abroad. And now, these morons do exactly the same thing again: without regard for human life, for humanity in general, for any common sense, they command this senseless military operation in Gaza which cannot result in any positive outcome. As the Hezbolla was the "winner" in summer 2006, both in terms of actual military results (their capability has not been diminished) and in terms of recognition as the leading resistance movement who appears to take care of their people's issues, now the Hamas will be the winner. Their rocket bases may be destroyed temporarily, but they will set them up again somewhere else. The Palestinians in the West Bank will become more sympathetic to Hamas, which will cost the current president there his credibility and his post. Overall in the world, Israel cannot win any points, and even the US is already withdrawing its unconditional support.

I can understand that it is not acceptable that rockets are fired at your own country on a daily basis. But isn't there any smarter response to that? Some secret infiltration, some ingenious coup, to eradicate and eliminate the rocket bases? Is a large-scale air bombing and ground invasion the only way of dealing with this? This action will not make Israel more secure; on the contrary: it has seeded more hate for at least one more generation to come, people in Palestine who will not be ready for any compromise but who will want revenge for the death of their relatives.

With its actions, the Israeli government has also turned friends away. One cannot expect from a friend to just stand by and let these irresponsible actions happen, in a friendship act of solidarity: no, there are higher more universal values, such as humanity, human rights, wisdom etc.

In summer 2007 I have put forward my voice, against a boycott of Israeli academics as it was suggested by the UK UCU. I still find such a boycott a stupid thing, and I still am against any antisemitic notion in whatever cover it comes. But if such a boycott or any similar action would be proposed now, I would remain silent: I feel that I cannot anymore put forward my voice and opinion on behalf of Israel.

It may not matter to them.... but I think that I am not the only one who has these kinds of thoughts.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Current Financial Crisis

The stocks are down. Banks go bankrupt. It just proves what I always knew: this system does not work. Does not work over long-term. Works fine short-term, for a few years, maybe decades. I am not a financial expert, just one of those laymen people who claim to know it better. But I know something about closed systems, mass and energy conservation, and all those formulas and equations which come from physics and which describe the world. Why should the financial/economic sector be exempt from these physical rules?

It always has bothered me that the world economic system is based on "growth". The economy always has to grow, otherwise there is gloom. Why? I could envision a stable non-growing economy... but evidently this does not work. And I actually understand why such a stable economy cannot work: consider a "closed system", one with no inputs or outputs, and consider just all the people in this system. Just let's say that the world is a closed system, for simplification. Everybody needs to earn a salary, for living. The sum of all salaries in any given year need to be paid from somewhere. This means that all the whole economy needs somewhere to come up with those salaries: someone needs to pay them. These salaries usually are among the expenses of businesses, which need to be offset by income. That is, all the businesses in the world together need an income that is at least as large as all the salaries together - otherwise these salaries cannot be paid. Under the "business categorie" I here include also government, whose income is taxes, and whose expenses are salaries of their employess and of course other expenditures. Now here it where I struggle: I understand that all the salaries must come from income of the business. But where does the income of those businesses (including the tax revenue) come from? Of course it comes from consumer spending. From all those people spending their earned salaries, and basically giving them back into the economy where companies use them to make profit. Of course, there are several intermediate players, e.g. companies who do not sell to private consumers but to other companies. But the sum must still remain the same, as these companies also have empoyees to whom they pay a salary, and the products are paid for by other companies who get their income from consumer spending.

This sounds all very logical, and one could devise a dynamic model with all those entities in it, who create the pump for the money circulation. It is necessary for an economy to have the money flowing in that circle: consumers earning salaries, and then spending it back - a closed loop in a closed system.

But my main question is: how can anybody make any profit?

Theoretically, the overall sum of all salaries must be at least what all the comanies receive as income. But that income of the companies is actually limited by those available salaries - people cannot spend more than they have. However, in order for a company to make profit, people actually must spend more than they have, so that a sucessful company receives more money than it spends - and the difference is its profit.

So how does this work? I really do not know. I assume it is a combination of several factors: banks give credit, so that consumers can spend more than their salary. This is borrowing towards the future. Aa a credit comes at the cost of interest, this interest must come from somewhere, must be generated, as it adds to the overall sum a deficit which is not covered. I assume that inflation helps here: governments can print more money to cover somehow that profit gap, and with a slight delay the inflation sets in as a consequence. In order to compensate inflation and to generate profit, companies have to "grow". Somehow this is how the spiral works, and the pump of money circulation get bigger and bigger all the time, generating prosperity and wealth, but also somehow pushing the possible financial problems (e.g. paying back credits) into the future. In addition, there is the factor of real estate: rising values of real estate provides a convenient automatic growth factor, backing up and covering somehow the deficiencies of the ideal closed loop. The question is: why should house prices rise? Is there any reasonable reason for this other than demand and supply? Why should a house no be 3 times more valuable than it was 10 years ago?

There is a lot of hot air in much of the system. Real estate is one of those hot air ballons. The high prices are based on true demand and limited supply, but not on actual cost and value. It is time that they come down and are back to levels so that ordinary people can afford a house.

There is something also fundamentally wrong with the financial system itself. Again, I am not an expert, so my opinion is not addressing all those intricacies of lending and borrowing. But just imagine a simple situiation: Let's say I make a deal with a friend, and I write him a note that I own him a Million $. Then he writes me a separate note that he owns me a Million $. We exchange notes, and have each other's note as a security (so that we are even). Now each of us can get out and "do business", as each of us can proof that someone owns us a Million $. This should get us credit, or we can even pay with parts of that note, giving away some of that debt to others. I think that is exactly how the real banking system works. Banks giving each other loans, investment firms betting on stocks, etc.

So no wonder this crisis is happening. Surprising is that it happened so late. And very surprising will be to see how fast the system will recover, as the human greed will win, and the growth ideology will continue to strive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

60 years ago...

In recent weeks, here in the UK there has been a lot of discussion and TV broadcasting about India and Pakistan, as this is now the 60th anniversary of their independence from English rule. While this is an understandable reason for celebration and pride (a lot has been achieved by these countries in the past 60 years), there is also a negative vibe with this: as independence became inevitable after 1945, the religious fighting between Hindus and Muslims erupted in India, which led to the founding of several states: India, Pakistan.

I do know only very little about those events, and I was watching several of the programs shown on TV with great curiousity. More than a Million people died in India during those years towards independence. Well, they did not die, but they were killed. And mostly not by the British (well, they did their part of "surpression" of the independence movement), but by their own countrymen. There were stories of Hindus killing their women in a village, for being afraid they would fall "into the hands of Muslims". Muslims hunting Hindus, Hindus hunting Muslims. A shameful end of Ghandi's dream of non-violent resistance, which taints the celebratory mood. Couldn't they just have gotten along with each other, in one single country?

10 years ago...

In a few days, there will be an anniversary being "celebrated", or better "commemorated", both in UK and in most fo the rest of the world. You probably know what I am talking about: 10 years ago a fabulous, legendary woman died. I am sure I do not have to mention whom I mean: Mother Theresa.

Got you there?

What happened 10 years ago, did at that time almost prompt me to begin something that would nowadays be called a "blog". I was annoyed and amused at the same time about that media circus that evolved after the car accident in which Lady Di perished. Now, 10 years later, the circus seems to repeat itself, and so I use the opportunity to post my opinion on this.

Lady Diana died in that car accident on 31. August 1997. She had been very popular, although that celebrity gossip never interested me. She had lived a life on the side of the "more advantaged", in high society, among the "fortunate ones". Of course she was very humanitarian and used her fame for positive impact. But overall she lived a privileged life, as everyone of "us" would dream to live one. Ok, she had some personal trouble. But she is not the only wife who has been abandoned by her husband - these things happen! So I do not feel that she was a tragic person. She was very well in control of her glamorous life, and had everything she wanted and needed. And if that car accident had not cut her life short, she would have gone on to lead a happy life.

Mother Theresa had been doing her humanitarian work since decades. I knew already as a child about her. She selflessly helped the poor in Calcutta, not glamorous, but in filth and poverty. Ok, one may criticise her work as not removing the causes but sort of stabilizing the bad situation, but she personally helped so many individuals who will have her personally in memory. When she died on 5. September 1997, the story of her death was buried in all that news about Lady Di. I felt ashamed for humanity at that point. And now, with the anniversary, the same situation will continue. I am curious how in 90 years the 100 year anniversary will be celebrated - maybe then Mother Theresa gets a bit more coverage, as somebody who really made a difference into individual's lifes, and who was not just a celebrity footnote in history whose personal problems dominated the news.

Iraq - Never-ending Story

There are many things going on about which I would like to comment on. Among current events Iraq keeps being in the news. Today the news is not about fighting between Shiites and Sunnis, but among Shiites themselves. Here is an example of a report on these events. The situation there gets out of control. Religion here completely expands its dividing power, and brainwashed followers bring the country further into ruin. The questions is: leave, to end an involvement which cannot be won, or stay, to fix what was damaged through the presence in the first place.

The Western powers who invaded Iraq acted like the "Sorcerer's Apprentice": not being aware about the powers they would release through their actions, unable to control the outcome. The responsible actors here will bear the full personal responsibility for each death, for each suffering in that country. But of course, nobody will ever go to trial for this...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

UK Government Problems...

After Prime Minister Tony Blair left office a few weeks ago, an era came to an end. Very charismatic, with radiating optimism, he brought a "new deal" to stuffy old England, and in most issues his government seemed to have been quite successful. Except with that story about Iraq. The biggest mistake that Blair made, was to follow US-Bush into that desaster that has evolved over the past 4 years. There seems to be no way back anymore, but this mistake taints the whole Blair era.

Now a new period has come - Prime Minister Brown calls the shots here. If this will be an era, or just the intermediate period between the Blair era and the upcoming Cameron era, is to be seen... initially Cameron seemed to get quite a momentum, appearing to be the Blair of the Tories. But surprisingly, Brown made quite a good figure. Not so much on the outside - he just does not radiate the same charisma as Blair of Cameron. But in substance - he immediately put his own style forward, introduced a new way of dealing with politics, and this appeared quite refreshing.

But in the past few days, this new fresh government has already strayed into an array of incompetences, and it is not sure if they will be able to recover from that. One of those things is the heavy-handing of the Russia-UK relation: in response to the slow process in Russia re. the Litvinenko murder, the UK expelled 4 Russian diplomats. Just like that. Now this just is quite a measure: these diplomats had nothing to do with the murder, they are expelled just on grounds to show Moscow that UK does not accept Putin's playing on time. This is not diplomacy; this is not how to deal with the Russian bear. Nothing will come out of this - or will president Putin now be scared by the UK and will give in? No way. So this UK action was just one of those things, done out of principle, righteous, but completely pointless and without any effect. It gives now Putin the upper hand, in retaliating as he wants to. Well, done, Mr. foreign secretary master-diplomat Miliband. You could not have done any worse than that.

And another thing that counters the initially positive perception of this government, as it set out to do things differently: today Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced that she "exempts" a privacy law which prevented toll collection cameras being used for counter terrorism searches - she just declared that an existing law does not apply anymore for this specific case, and that data from those cameras can now be shared among government agencies. Now this might be a good things - but who is she to just bypass an existing law? Isn't there a separation of power in this country? Can the executive just declare void certain things that the legislative has passed? It would now be time for the judicative to interfere and make a case in defending the existing law... but only silence. This is how far we have come in this country - laws that have been passed do not matter anymore - the government can at any instance decide to ignore them, bypass them. Like in the case of the corruption allegations against BAE, where the government just could decide to stop the inquiries, against all common sense and law conscience.

No wonder, that nobody gives a damn anymore about politics. We are moving back from the era of enlightenment, where people fought for lawful constitutions, for due-process. Instead, we move towards an arbitrary interpretation of the law by those who govern us, who make the laws.

And on the other hand, those idealistic world-improvers in the government want now to impose on their citizens other measures, to make life harder: garbage collection only every 2nd week (if this becomes law, then I will half the council tax that I pay. Why should I get a reduction of services and pay the same price?). Road tax in addition to the existing car tax and gasoline tax. All these are just ways of getting additional taxes into the system.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Libby's Sentence "Commuted"

So the president of the US thinks that the sentence against the former aide of Vice-President Cheney, "Scooter" Libby, is too harsh... and he simply commutes it. It seems that the US administration no longer even pretends to be based on the principles of justice, fairness. A band of crooks, sworn to help each other out in case of trouble. The mob is governing the most powerful country on earth. No longer is any facade being kept to show at least an appearance of impartiality.

This will be bad for the Republican Party at the next election. The voters will (hopefully) not forget this.

Why not abolish the democracy there alltogether? It seems that it already is no longer functioning. First there seemed to be a glimpes of hope, that actually someone is being sued for crimes and misdemeanors, as Scooter Libby committed them (by covering up and obstructing justice in the Valerie Plame case). He gets a trial, and gets a sentence. All according to the official procedures, due-course. But then, the ruler of the country just overrules... what example does this set? This US government no longer has any credibility left. No moral leadership. Nothing.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Terror in UK

Yesterday there were two failed car bomb attacks in London. Today another car fire attack at Glasgow Airport. The UK terror scene appears to be active again. But they appear also to be quite dumb. The car bombs in London did not explode. There must be tons of CCV footage of these two Mercedeses, driving in the London City centre, and their drivers must be recognisable on some of the videos. The guys in Glasgow caused some damage, but then got caught and are under arrest now. This does not look very smart on their part ...
But we should take it easy: even dumb people can cause a lot of damage, if they are lucky. See London 2005, Madrid 2004, New York 2001. More of this will come, unfortunately.

How can this be stopped? How can we fight them, and how can we win? With "we" I mean the whole civilised world. Across boundaries, not just "the west". Islam is also under attack by these jerks. The resistance against those suicide bombers, car bombers, etc. must come from their own environment. The swamp of brainwashing preaching must be drained. They must become outcast, not heros.

This reminds me so much of the Nazis and Germany: the Nazis too claimed they were doing everything "for Germany", in the name of Germany. And yes, they did, had a lot of support from the country's inhabintants. But in the end, what was ruined was Germany. The same will happen to Islam. Those who fight for Islam, in the name of Islam, are ruining it, ruining its reputation, ruining its future. It is about time that people within the Islamic community speak out for Enlightenment, which is the greatest achievement of mankind. Enlightenment is what is under attack.

Soft appeasing words and sentences do not help. Appeasement did not help in 1938, nor does it help now. The friends of Enlightenment in this world need to take a strong stand. And one of the roots for these mindless actions is their religion. Spirituality can have a positive impact on human life, but in their case the worst thing of religion comes out: the absolutism, the "god is on my side, and everybody else is an infidel" attitude. It cannot be tolerated that a small minority in this world claims superiority over everybody else. They fight against the liberal life style, against clubs, against women exposing their face. This needs to be stopped.

More of these attacks will follow. No region is exempt, the terrorists will hit in regions which are not under the tight watch like London, but will hit in provincial areas where nnobody expects them. Also, they will hit in countries which have not yet shown a high profile in the current wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. For example, there are threats for attacks in Germany, although some say that Germany because of its current refusal to take a more prominent role in Afghanistan (where they are only working in the North, not in the "dangerous" south) is excempt from such terror attacks, as a reward for its appeasement tactics. This is of course BS - targets in ermany are high on the list of possible actions. Appeasement does not help whey trying to win this World War 3.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Knighthood for Salman Rushdie

A week ago, Knighthood was given to Salman Rushdie. And immediately, worldwide concern rose about this decision, that it might spark terrorism.

No, it does not spark terrorism. Terrorism is sparked by those who have that flame of religious hatred in their hearts. Those who are offended by any joke about their beliefs. Those who started this fatwa in the first place. It is almost unbelievable that in our age someone can legally call for the murder of someone else, just because of the opinion of that person.

One of the biggest achievements of mankind is in decline: enlightenment. What has brought mankind to new height never achieved before, is now being torn down by people who want to go back to the middle ages. And there are only few to defend enlightenment...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Boycotts against Israel - by UK Trade Unions

The academics here in the UK who worked towards the boycott of Israel academis had become somewhat quiet in the past few weeks:

The Anti Defamation League had startd an ad campaign with a sharp condemnation of the UCU boycott activities.

On 13. June the following petition by British academics was posted in the Times and in the Guardian newspapers:
Stop the Boycott.

On 14. June 2007 a letter to the Guardian against the boycott by UCU appeared.

On 15.June 2007 in the Times Higher Education Supplement a report listed some of the actions against that report.

While these activities seem to have quieted down the academic discussion at UCU, the other trade union in the UK which had considered a boycott, UNISON, seemed not to have been impressed by this and went ahead at their meeting, deciding to recommend a boycott of Israel in general.

I just found out about this news a few hours ago, two days after the event (ok, it might have been reported on the BBC news at 10, but I just came back from IKEA and missed the fist 15 minutes). Not much mentioned anywhere about this - a search on Google yielded mostly Jewish organisations who spoke out against this boycott. But the British opposition to these boycotts seemed to have lost their voice...

The Anti-Defamation League issued a press release against this. Maybe the weekend has first to pass before there will be a response from within the UK...

--- I still think that the delegates at these Union meetings do not really represent the majority of the membership. These delegates are politically charged, have their agenda for whatever reason. I believe that the silent majority in those trade unions would prefer if the unions would focus on their REAL job: that is, work towards increasing the benefits for their members in job-related situations, help in individual hardships, mitigate job loss, fight for higher income. I am sure the members would prefer this, instead of the unions trying to play on the global stage "big politics". Big politics is not the role of the unions. And if I would be a member of either UCU or UNISON, I would leave that union, and start my own one. UCU last year with their "industrial action" just achieved a measly 3% raise of the salaries of their members - that is quite pathetic.

So how about it, members of these unions, members who are dissatisfied with your union leadership? Why do you not leave the union, and start a new one? One that really takes care of your true concerns, instead of wasting your union membership fees for ambitious political games that are only intended to raise the profile of those individuals with a political agenda?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Boycott of Israel... ???

Yesterday, the UK's University and College Union (UCU), which represents 120,000 academics in Higher Education, had a debate about issuing a boycott of Israel academics. This debate already has a history, as in the past 2 years the academic unions in the UK have discussed if such a boycott is to be implemented. They followed here a call from Palestinian trade unions.

Concluding yesterday's debate, the delegates voted to call on British lecturers to "consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions".

I am not a member of UCU, but as an academic in the UK, the actions of UCU also influence my work. So I take up the call and "consider": and the result of my consideration is that such links with Israeli academic institutions are valuable and helpful in overcoming the divisions in the Middle East. The boycott proposed by UCU is not helpful.

But this anti-Israel attitude has tradition here in the UK, among the well-meaning "intellectuals" who have such a large heart for the supressed in this world: just a month ago the British National Union of Journalists (NUJ) issued a boycott of goods from Israel.

The question arises, why unions whose focus should be in affairs within the country, go to these lengths and mingle in global issues. Does that mean they have given up on their original task, to negotiate salaries and working conditions for their members?

Maybe in Britain there is still the felt global responsibility for "the Empire" which has long gone. Maybe there are still some hard feelings, for having been kicked out of Israel in 1948.

Journalists should report unbiased the news. This siding of their main union taints this objectivity. 270 journalists from the BBC have signed a petition AGAINST this boycott. The same NUJ also supports Chavez in Venezuela who just has closed opposing TV stations - yeah, great support for democracy.

I personally am ashamed of the UCU actions, and I am not going to support this boycott. Sure, Israel has done quite a bit to discredit itself, but the policy of that state should not be held against its citizens. The Israel population has pluralism, there are many voices, opinions, there is also a significant peace movement, often protesting against the government. Where can protests against governments be found in the countries surrounding Israel? Nowhere. Because these are all not real democracies, but are ruled by monarch-like figures who inherit their office from their family. Israel is the only democracy there, with changing governments, separation of power etc., the only country there which carries the flame of secular enlightenment, which is the biggest achievement of mankind. Sure, within itself it too has those religious right-wing zealots, which want to turn the wheel of history back - but Israel has to deal with them, and will deal. The majority of the population is not following those radicals there. Quite in contrast to the situation in the palestinian territories, where the people only had the choice between a corrupt nepotistic Fatah and the radical faschist Hamas - and these two are right now fighting against each other, in the long tradition of radical middle-east civil war.

It is quite ironic that the Britsh journalist Alan Johnston who had been very sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, is now captured by them. I am curious what he has to say when he is released. But not even this crime causes our well-meaning UCU and NUJ to boycott Palestine, nor do they issue a resolution against the daily suicide bombers anywhere in the Middle East... instead the go for the cheap Israel-bashing. And of course, they deny any trace of Antisemitism in their actions ...

I will not participate in this boycott; in fact I will undermine it: I hereby invite academics from Israel to establish links with me - as Professor of Creative Technology at Leeds Metropolitan University I am open to joint projects, research activities, and technology development.

This invitation also goes to all academics from institutions in the Palestine territories - they are very welcome to establish links for collaboration and partnerships!

The world urgently needs more collaboration, not more boycotts and divisions.

Friday, April 27, 2007

President Bush Dances

One can be quite opposed to US politics and the current US administration - but President Bush showed some real class yesterday when he joined the Kankouran West African Dance Company at a support event for the Malaria-day. Such actions make him actually sympathetically human - quite in contrast to the agonised morons among his staff / cronies.

His friends are not very amused...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Events at Virginia Tech

What a horrible story. My condolences go out to all who lost someone in that event. There are no words which can describe this appropriately.

A deranged individual can do so much damage with a gun... when I lived in the US, I strongly opposed the liberal laws on gun ownership, which make it so easy to get a gun. However, now I come to think: wouldn't it be better if one of the other students would have had a gun, to put an earlier end to this, before 32 had to die?

I myself would now want to have a gun, to defend myself and others against any maniac in such a situation. No good will or nice words help here, unfortunately it is only a matter of who shoots first. And I want to be the one who shoots first. Such stories make me angry. To talk about this as a "tragedy" misses the point... a tragedy is something that cannot be avoided. But such a massacre can be avoided - in principle at least. It is man-made, carried out by one human, with tools created by humans, in circumstances determined by humans. Just to label the deaths reasons as "someone being at the wrong place at the wrong time" as I hear it often, is not correct and is a fatalistic surrender.

Here in the UK the gun laws are extremely strict: the wish to self-defense is not accepted as a valid reason for applying for a gun license, and owning an unlicensed gun will be punished with a mandatory sentence of 5 years in prison. (So no gun for me...)

A campus like Virginia Tech cannot be made safe. Adding access control and weapons detectors will make the daily life unbearable, and still someone could slip through and cause havoc anyway.

One need to think about how to avoid that assassins become assassins. How do they get their idea of causing a killing spree? Where in their brain does the snap happen?

Monday, April 09, 2007


15 British soldiers had been captured by Iran, then they were released. I have not commented on the whole story yet, although there would be a lot to say. I do not know who was right, as I have not yet informed myself what the specific situation was: was the location of the soldiers within Iranian waters, or was it not? What is exactly the legal situation there? Who claims what, and what is the international law exactly there?

There were lots of words, lots of talk, discussions, statements, threats. UK diplomacy kept a low profile, in contrast what the US would have done. Eventually that allowed Ahmadinejad to show off his grandeous gesture of good will, without loosing too much face.

Now the soldiers are back in the UK, and now the media circus begins. They had been allowed to tell - and sell - their story to the media. But today in the afternoon this was forbidden to them. And here is where the hypocracy reaches a level which makes me want to voice my opinion. The soldiers should be allowed to tell - and, yes, sell their story. The media wants it, they are willing to pay, so why not? It is their story, and if someone is willing to pay, then there should be nobody forbidding them to take the money. Here is the hypocracy of the British ruling establishment clearly visible: on one side, the government prevented the investigation into the corruption allegations related to the Saudi arms deal, in which UK companies were involved. "Security interest" was at stake... And now on the other hand, the poor "little guy", the soldiers, are not allowed to take any money. Although in their case, they did not accept bribes, no corruption was here involved.

The arms lobby can quietly continue their "business", with the usual corruption methods. That is ok, is legal, will not be prosecuted. But the soldiers shall tell their story for free... what a hypocracy!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The "Friendly Fire" Incident

You probably have read and heard about this incident: in Iraq, in the first days of the war in 2003, two US pilots shot at a UK convoy and killed Matty Hull. For almost 4 years, the US refused to release the video tape shot from one of the attacking planes. Now since a few days, this video is public, thanks to a "indiscretion" of the UK paper "Sun".

This story has so many facets, it is an interesting example to study. First of all, it shows how war is fought today. Lots of computer graphics which the pilot sees. Communication among pilots, back to the base. A fascinating insight into the business of professional killing. Very clean, like a surgical operation. The pilots' task is to kill people, to "eliminate" convoys. As the truth emerges that they hit a "friendly", the do have the natural reaction: they get sick, want to throw up, feel guilt. That is exactly the reaction that any human should have in such a situation. It actually shows that these two pilots still are humans, have human emotions. So why would they not have these emotions if the attacked convoy would have been Iraqi? This shows the whole dilemma and hypocracy of warfare: only the "own" people are good, are humans, are worth to be cried about. The "others" are the enemy, need to be killed.

There is no difference if the killed people are UK, US, or Iraqi - there is always someone who cries for them, their family, their loved ones. In this case, it is the widow of the killed UK soldier, Susan Hull. If this would not have been a "friendly fire" incident, then it might have been a woman with an Arabic name... and nobody would talk about her on the news now. In fact, several 10 thousand Iraqi soldiers got killed in this war, they are nameless now.

Only when the fire gets redirect to ourselves, then it becomes evident what a crime war is.

The 2nd issue that becomes evident in this case is how military always tries to hide the truth (well, if there is an institution which has killing as their profession, it is no surprise that they are lying too). Ok, they are rightfully embarrased. The US military hid the video tape, first denied its existence, then refused to release it. This is the natural reaction of a party guilty of something, so it is to be expected. And there is no exception, even towards a "special ally" which the UK supposedly is: the own well-being always comes first, the hiding from publication, the protection from punishment. In order not to demoralise their own military, the US has to protect them from prosecution, otherwise the soldiers would realise that fighting is a perverse and criminal activity, and that would be the end of using military for war.

There is a lot to be learned from this story, but I know that nothing will be learned. Never anything has been learned from past mistakes, ever....

Monday, January 29, 2007

Suicide Bombers

Once again, a suicide bomber has brought death to people who just were shopping, this time in Israel - just read the news on BBC or on your favorite online news site. To me, this is just a horrible reminder of evil in humans. When you use your own death to save people, you are called a martyr. There is no word for what you are when you use your own death to kill others. Some people still call that person a martyr, blinded by their own ideology, ignorance, and stupidity.

If we remain quiet about this, we make ourselves guilty. I am very passionate about this, because I am a German, and the wrath which had been brought to the world by the German Nationalsozialism in the 1930s is still not forgotten anywhere in the world. Wherever I go, as a German the crimes of my country accompany me, and I am determined to fight against a new rising of inhumane ideologies. Many people do not seem to realise the parallels between the situation in the Middle East and the situation in Europe in 1933, except Jewish people: I believe that the Jihad is the predecessor to World War 3. Suicide bombers can be found almost exclusively in the "Islamist" world: in Iraq, in Palestine, in the UK (London subway bombings). I find it appalling when the condemnation of such a suicide bombing done by Palestinians is followed by a "but", pointing to the Israel occupation. Accepting such a "but" relativises the murder and tries to make it "understandable". I am not accusing Islam itself - I know many Muslims among my students, whom I find to be very nice and peaceful people. But it needs to be made clear what is not acceptable, and where it comes from.

How I would deal with suicide bombers: let them have their will, put them onto an open field, and let their bombs go off. They wanted to die anyway, so their wish can be fullfilled (I support the right to individual suicide). But without harm to anyone else. And then, videos of their death should be spread around the world, humiliating them and the community where they came from. It is not acceptable that they are revered by their family and honored as martyrs. Maybe then finally, within the community some resistance would form, realising that these bombings do not advance their cause: they kill people, put them into a bad light in world opinion, and destroy chances for peace. Well, that is exactly what these misguided creatures (and those who are behind the scenes, orchestrating those bombings) want to achieve...

Sorry for being so polarizing here, but I need to speak out. There are always demonstrations in the world when Israel does something wrong (yes, in my view the war in summer 2006 which Israel brought to Lebanon was a crime, done by the Israel state, their leaders, and supporters of this war) there is always an angry mob demonstrating somewhere against Israel. I wish there would be finally some public demonstrations against suicide bombers, to create a worldwide solidarity with the victims of such attacks. I have yet to see this solidarity arising...

Monday, November 06, 2006

The "Stern Report" on Climate Change - Consequences?

Last week, one of the main news was the Stern Report on Climate Change written for the UK government. Here in the UK, this led to an intense discussion on what could and what should be done.

This is a serious problem. But it is not really news: those who have been "consciously" watching in the past 30 years, knew it all along that these would be tough first 50 years of the new millenium, not even mentioning the following decades and centuries. Pollution has already destroyed big parts of the natural the environment and is continuing to do so, although some progress had been made:
  • Cars are nowdays much cleaner and more efficient than a few decades ago. This is very visible for example in Southern California (around Los Angeles), an area that had been notorious for smog and pollution, but where since the mid-1990s there were only very few smog days. Lead has been removed from gas, and the fuels are more efficient and burn cleaner (although with some other negative side effects, such as polluting the water supply near gas stations).
  • Renewable energies receive more funding and are being integrated into power networks.

But nevertheless, these improvements did not do much to the fact that pollution increases, and the earth's temperature goes up. Or at least the energy content of the atmosphere - in terms of stronger storms for example. Not completely clear, from a scientific point of view, is if the temperature actually would go up, or if increased pollution would finally stop the sun rays from warming the earth, and might in fact let it cool down (particle emissions). However, undoubtedly, the human activity has an effect on the climate.

But what to do? There are some suggestions: in the UK, at a radio talk show, there was a caller who wanted to abolish shopping on Sunday - in order to conserve energy. Others call for a reduction of flights. And while there are certainly measures that could be undertaken in order to reduce emissions and energy waste, I hesitate to support some short-sighted activism which only would have a tiny effect, but which would make life for me personally quite inconvenient. I will not give up shopping on Sunday: the hectic and wasteful driving on congested roads on Saturdays and during restricted opening hours is not a solution to the world's energy problems. And I will not give up flying: I fly a lot, just recently I had my 380th take-off (and landing, fortunately) since my first flight in 1982. Short-haul flights are unnecessary, but there is no alternative for long-haul air transport.

Any measures that the established Western industrial world would take now, no matter how drastic they might be, would not be able to offset the real "threat": the rapid industrialisation of upcoming Nations such as China and India. I heard recently, that in China every week a new power plant is opened, and every year China adds the emissions of the total UK's emissions to the world - despite that these new power plants are the cleanest in the world. Now should we be upset and stop China from expanding their energy production? Don't they also have the right to electricity, to refrigerators and dish washing machines? Or would any of us here in the Western World be willing to give up all our luxury while altruistically allow others to have their 150 years of industrial revolution too?

This makes me believe that nothing can be done against the global pollution problem, except to enforce strictest standards as possible, filtration systems etc. In fact, China is very much aware of this: the new additions to their shipping fleet are nowadays the cleanest ships on Earth (as I havebeen told last year by an insider into ship emissions), with new ships fulfilling the strictest emission standards. But nobody can forbid growth, and even the strictest standards will then prevent a reversal of this global warming trend.

So I have taken the not-so-ethical stand of arranging myself with the coming catastrophy. My recommendation: move to northern countries which will actually benefit from the global warming. For example, Leeds here in Northern England where I live now, experiences the warmest summers and autumns ever - that is fine with me. Greenland will be the up-and-coming land to settle - maybe buy some real estate there soon! Also, avoid settling near the coast, as the sea level will inevitably rise. The Alps will no longer have snow-caps and glaciers - this is a real loss, and good-bye to skiing! This is really a pity, as future generations will just see the Alps as a collection of eroded rock piles, similar to parts of the Rocky Mountains in the US.

There is nothing that can be done to prevent this coming catastrophy. Every little saving of energy that we could provide, will be more than overcompensated as the whole world catches up. Still, I buy these energy-saving lamps, hoping that this will eventually make them cheap enough so that they will be used by everybody. I know that this will not help much, but I still do it - something irrational for the conscience.

The real trouble of this climate change will be not for me, but for other people: 100 millions of fugitives are to be expected, from the zones in the now subtrocpial and tropical areas. Africa is already a dying continent - the climate change will accelerate this. We should be prepared for these fugitives, build the infrastructure, prepare the societies for this wave to come. Because it will be coming, no matter what will be decided on the next climate summit.

Saddam Hussein - Death Sentence

So now the sentence has been spoken. Will this bring peace to the region? No, on the contrary: this verdict will be seen as the victory of one of the two sites: Shiites are jubilating, Sunnies are revolting.

Ok, Saddam was a "bad guy", as they say in the US in their simplifying way (even the official media use this expression). But there are so many worse guys in this world who do not get sentenced to anything. Saddam deserved a trial and a sentence, and I think that he got a fair trial - although there are voices who express concern about that (for example, Amnesty International claims that this trial had not been). But he got a verdict that comes out of the attitude of the middle ages: death by hanging. Is this barbaric verdict appropriate to the justice system of the 21st century? I do not think so. In the US, the only Western country where the death penalty is still legal, there is of course no objection to this sentence. It is, however, quite revealing how in the other Western countries this sentence is being commented: here in the UK where the death sentence is outlawed, the officials wind themselves in justifying this verdict, without condoning explicitly the death penalty - a true display of double standard, of hippocracy.

This verdict will be a burden for the future of Iraq - it will be seen as a revenge act which will provike further revenge acts.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Iraq - the Man-Made Desaster

It is heart-breaking to read, hear, and watch news from Iraq - these news seem to get worse every day. The big bothersome truth is that this mess could completely have been avoided. When in 2003, the US bullied the UN into resolutions which were ultimately used by the "Coalition of the Willing" to invade Iraq, it was clear to anyone with a clear judgement that the premises for this war were artificially constructed. When in autumn 2002 the Bush adminstration pressured Saddam Hussein into concessions, it was evident and clearly visible that with every concession Saddam made, the demands were set higher, so as to demonstrate that Iraq would not be willing to cooperate with the world community. In the end, Saddam was willing to let UN observers in, and to fulfil the requirements made. But it was too late - the US and UK troops were already in place, waiting on their ships and airports for the "go" signal. When governments are determined to start a war, nothing will stop them. Not even the fact that these governments are democracies, did stop them to pursue the path they had chosen to go, against all advice from experts, and by manipulating "evidence" which seemingly supported their case ("weapons of mass destruction") and at the same time withholding evidence that this was all BS (reports from UN weapons inspectors, internal CIA memos, etc.).

Now, after more than 3 years, these democratic governments finally get to feel the heat from this dodged operation: US President Bush is on an all time low in opinion polls, and the yes-men in his political mob finally feel the public turning away from them. And Prime Minister Blair who is actually 100 times more reasonable than Bush but who has - for reasons unknown to anyone of mankind - chosen to pay allegiance to the US on their path of destruction, also pays now the price, being almost "evicted" in shame during the past months of discussions of the end of his term.

But the damage is done. A country which was not ideal and was not functioning to its fullest potential in the time before the 2003 invasion, has been now completely destroyed. It is disheartening to read in the Independent (20.10.2006) a report that 68% of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water. Or that 72% of Iraqis need reconstructive surgery from gunshot or blast wounds. No functioning hospital system.

The US administration had set aside $243 M for building 142 private health clinics, in a well-intended effort to rebuild Iraq and to improve conditions. 20 of those have been build, the money is gone. Where is it?

It is not hard to imagine how profiteers followed the foot steps of the US soldiers, winning lucrative government bids for "building" up the destroyed infrastructure, and enriching themselves gorgeously at the cost of the US tax payer. This whole war seemed to have been set up as a scheme to enrich some of President Bush's cronies, such as Haliburton and company. This means that most of the money spent and wasted on this war is actually coming back to the US - and with this argument it was obviously easy to win the support of the US legislative for this war.

The ones who suffer from this scheme are the Iraqis. Growing minorities of religious fanatics take over, burying whatever was left after the destruction by the military force.

What always strikes me is how anyone could imagine to win the "minds and hearts" of the Iraqi population, when one sees on TV soldiers in hunt and search action, kicking in doors with their feet, shouting at scared women, and claiming that all this is done well according to established procedure? Not talking about those excesses well beyond the regular established procedure, as shown in Abu Graib, and in the criminal rape and murder cases commited by US and UK troops, popping up like mushrooms.

The invadors of Iraq are loosing the war that they imposed in the Iraqi people. There is one horrible lesson learned from history, on how to win such a war: bomb everything flat until everything is destroyed, in a unconditional capitulation. The example is World War 2, when Germany was bombed and destroyed completely - all the morale and the capability to "fight back" was basically destroyed, and a basis for a long lasting healthy economic recovery afterwards was prepared. There was no insurgency... because there were no means to fight anymore. In Iraq it seems that the insurgency gets stronger every day, sucking out the livelyhood of the Iraqi civilian population.

Let's hope that the invadors will not learn this lesson from WW 2: let's hope that they will not apply the proven tool of complete destruction. Fortunately, it seems that they do not learn from history anyway - otherwise they would not have started this war in the first place.

Friday, October 20, 2006

About this Blog

Already a long time ago, when I first had access to the internet and set up a web server in 1994, I thought that it would be great to use this medium to post reflection, comments, and opinions, to share with others. At that time, nobody knew the term "blog", but people were setting up personal web pages. And so did I, just providing a few bits about myself and my interests. But I never came around to transforming my web site into an opinion page. It was just too much hassle, to set this up, keep it updated, and write all the HTML code for it from scratch. I even had the title "My two cents" in mind for this, but never found the time to implement this.

Nowadays, there is a great variety of blog software, allowing exactly that kind of opinionated publishing that I envisioned in the mid 90s. As I tried to find a place for posting and sharing pictures online, I found the Picasa / Hello tool from Google. From there, I was led to the Blogger site, which is what I use now for my blogs. The easy to use interface and the general well designed operation prompted me to give this a try. My first blog here, which I set up in summer 2005, was devoted to my many travels which I did as a part of my job or for leasure (Reinhold's Musings). I felt that it may be interesting to some people, friends, colleagues, or just anyone else, to read a bit about different impressions and events. In that blog, I generally kept a quite "low profile", trying not to offend anyone, not so display too personal thoughts and descriptions, and not to post on possibly controversial topics. Now, this blog here is my second blog. I feel more comfortable to be a bit more direct and open, writing about my opinions and thoughts about issues. This blog should be taken as such - as a personal account and a set of reflections on current or general issues.

I hope you enjoy this blog - you are very welcome to post your replies and participate in possible discussions. I may not post regularly nor reply to comments, so please do not expect much interaction, as my profession does not leave me very much time for this. However, I find that blogging is a valuable tool for engaging with a world-wide audience. As the world is growing closer together, blogging provides a way of bridging cultures through sharing experiences and opinions, across all boundaries.