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Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Chapel Hill, Boston, Istanbul, Calgary, Washington DC, Austin, Tunis, Warszawa and counting

Thursday, November 23, 2006

All Along The Watchtower

Robert Zimmermann - All Along The Watchtower
This obscure 20th century singer might just be one of the most influential - and best - poets of the English Language ever.

Angela Merkel apparently read my blog and thus decided to respond to my criticism of German foreign policy. According to her the German presence in (North-)Afghanistan is actually examplary and supposedly slowly becomes a model for other nations. With this she refers to the mixture of military and civilian methods deployed at the same time. She avoids the question of whether the military should be utilized as well though (right now the German army is really just a show force in Afghanistan not hurting anyone (including opium traders and growers for example)) and more importantly I can still find no reference in German papers or her speech to the scathing criticism of Germany's civilian efforts. Namely - as I've wrote before - the training of police officers supposedly has been lacking in quality. While I agree with her that a reliance on military options only would be folly, I also would be really interested to know whether this German nation building is really of bad quality. Anyone that sees anything about any of this anywhere. Tell me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Run On For A Long Time

The Blind Boys of Alabama - Run On For A Long Time
I've posted this song before I know, this is a different version though, taken from one of the best albums of the millennium.

Lebanon is heading down a worrisome trail it seems. Hezbollah is completely discrediting itself as a political actor right now and seems intent to force Syrian dominance back into the picture. On a related note James Baker (as co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group supposed to propose a reversal of tactics in Iraq) has proposed talks with Syria and Iran (Blair already sent one of his senior advisor to Damascus), I never really tied these two together and actually endorse Baker's proposal (and still do to some degree), but a really interesting take on the affair in the Opinion Journal sheds a different light on this.

Basically the author is afraid that Realists like Baker (and the rest of the Bush I cronies) will sell out Lebanon in order to achieve some kind of stabilization in Iraq (which they apparently already did in the first (or second depending on the way you count) Gulf War). That of course would not be acceptable. Lebanon is actually a (semi-)democracy and needs to be kept clean of too much influence by Syria and Iran.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Goin' Down South

Kenny Brown - Goin' Down South

Check out Nate Robinson blocking Yao.

I have never been one of those left-wing ideologists who bash Israel and claim that suicide attacks on discos or buses are legitimate means of self-defense. Yet, having said that, I have to admit that Israel is acting disgraceful at times. They are continuously violating the UN-solution on Lebanon by flying into Lebanon air space. They flew in provocatively close to a German battle ship and French tank positions both send there to guard the peace. Now, the NY Times writes that Israeli officials are cheating private Palestinian property owners out of their rights by simply not acknowledging that the land occupied by the Tsahal had been private property before. If peace ever really is to come to that region both sides need to start acting just.

Sorry about the corny ending there, but sometimes it really as simple and sugary.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Hunch (Hasil Adkins)

Hasil Adkins - The Hunch

For some reason West Virginia is the stomping ground of a lot of really bizarre characters (Jesco White would be one example). These guys seceded from Virginia after that state's secession from the Union if that is not showcasing their 'otherness' I don't know what is. Now, here is the craziest of them all, the late, great Hasil Adkins:

If You ain't never seen nobody do the Hunch you ain't seen my woman and I declare son you never will see her, 'cause I ain't got one.

I think it is ridiculous that Germany tries to shun its duty in Afghanistan by not deploying troops in the South, but even more outrageous is that it seems as if the training of the police is lacking in funding, manpower and quality. This does not seem to be focused on as much as it should be in German papers (even the taz does not mention it as far as I know), but if Germany has taken on an important job like the creation of an Afghan police force, then they need to do a better job of it, especially in the most important country in regard to nation building in the world right now. Plus, the argument of Germany as a civilian task force comes crushing down if the work provided in these areas is of low quality, they might as well fight in the South then (and should anyway if you ask me).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Jedae Tag

Big Zis - Jedae Tag
while not as exotic as Iraqi rap maybe, I do not know that much Swiss German rap either I have to admit (nor are there that many female rappers sadly enough)

  • "We need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months," Mr. Levin said [...] [he] added, "The point of this is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they are going to have to solve their own problems."

    Mr. Levin will be the new Armed Services Committee chairman, replacing Mr. Warner, I should add. This I believe is just wrong, their problems are after all due to an American invasion. If they withdraw now, that means they will discredit American Foreign Policy over the next decade at least.

    I have to agree with Senator McCain on this one who "reiterated his stance that there were not enough American troops there." Even if the only thing these troops will achieve might be a stabilization through a de facto or actual splitting up of the country in three ethnic homogeneous parts.

  • "Religious rap songs play just as loudly on the streets of Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite slum in eastern Baghdad that is the heart of his [Moktada al-Sadr] support."

    Is there anything quite as impressive or complete as the global domination of rap?

  • The audacity of professional sports teams to ask for funding of their arenas just confounds me. Whether in Germany (Bayern Munich's new arena) or in the USA, why should the general taxpayer help finance these teams? There is no sensible reason, none. So props to Seattle for turning the request by the Sonics down.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Custer Died For Your Sins

Floyd Red Crow Westerman - Custer Died For Your Sins
He is probably best known for his role in Oliver Stone's Doors movie where he plays the - surprise, surprise - Indian Chief, but he was actually an Indian political activist, poet and singer.

I got frustrated with the progress in my latest French book so I got myself a rail-thin pocket book from the library here and read it through in two days. Only problem, it wasn't all that great. The book is entitled The Last of the Indian Wars and was written by Forbes Parkhill. It describes the tragic story of the American Indian (to quote Johnny Cash), specifically this deals with a group of Utes living in the Four Corner's area. One of them Tse-quit (Man-Who-Never-Cries) is accused of having murdered and robbed a Mexican shepherd. It is never satisfactorily answered whether this accusation is true or not, but the white settlers of the area seize the opportunity to chase all Indians from the desirable lands which they had occupied before. This in itself is of course nothing new, has actually occurred over and over again, even the methods employed (massacring everyone involved including women and children) do not surprise. What is striking about this event is really only the date. It all took place under the Wilson administration shortly before the outbreak (for the USA at least) of the 1st World War.

The way lawlessness still reigned when it came to Native-Americans' rights (Blacks' as well I guess, but that's a different subject) is quite shocking considering that Wilson's 14 points set a resounding - if unsuccessful - democratic example only two years later. In the end the single Indian prevails - Tse-quit is acquitted - but the Ute lose as they have been forced to live their homes already.

While this is a really interesting story the author sadly does not manage to keep his writing on par. Partly it makes the impression as if he only pasted newspaper articles, Indian folk tales and phrases condemning the white man's treatment of the red man together. While I agree with this condemnation it would have been amazing to read this captivating story of injustice, murder, and violence - no sex sorry - as a coherent story and not as simply a collection of badly connected sentences, paragraphs and chapters.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

We Shall Overcome

The Jewish Young Folksinger - We Shall Overcome
A bit of Jewish support for the Civil Rights Struggle

I had to write a 6-page paper on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his role in the Civil Rights Movement. A really interesting topic and I really enjoyed my Monday which I spent in the library reading, in a one day sitting (diagonal I have to admit though), Ling's biography of King. Good stuff that. I hadn't really known all that much about the whole movement (just the typical collection of buzz- and keywords) but it is a really fascinating, just and - in the end, more or less - successful cause. Tuesday and Wednesday I spent writing my six pages and this morning I turned the essay in.

What can I say, I think this is one of the weakest papers I have ever written for a class. I am not quite sure why this is the case. Maybe I dislike the class too much (this bizarre French method of teaching without any interaction taking place can destroy pretty much any topic), feel too arrogant in there (some of those French guys in there have an atrocious command of the English language) or the question wasn't any good (Discuss the following statement: MLK was more a facilitator than an organizer), maybe I just didn't care enough because it seems highly unlikely that I will get any credit for any of this. Whatever the reason, crappy paper I believe, if you want to check it out anyway (or therefore), here you go.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ain't That Good News

Sam Cooke - Ain't That Good News

I am intellectually a little bit too dead to concentrate on this or feel sufficiently happy (I read a MLK, Jr biography monday and wrote a 6 page paper on him in the last 48 hours). But this really is a stellar result:

  • A clear majority in the House for the Democrats (over 30 seats) is certain

  • A tie (meaning Cheney gives the Republicans the majority anyway) or even a one-seat majority is still possible in the Senate (depending on too close to call outcomes in Montana and Virginia)

  • Nancy Pelosi most likely will become the first female Speaker of the House (slowly but surly preparing us for the female onslaught of Clinton, Royal and Merkel, get ready guys)

  • Democrats are in possession of a majority of Governor positions as well now

  • While Harold Ford did not become the first black Senator from the South since Reconstruction he did win 48% of the vote in Tennessee

  • A ballot to ban abortion in South Dakota and thus prepare a legal challenge to Roe vs Wade has been soundly rejected

  • With Keith Ellison a - converted - Muslim has been voted into the House

  • Schwarzenegger was reelected, oh wait, they did? Damn Californians!

I only wish all of this would have come two years earlier, let's hope that the Democrats will now be able to proceed on a path more multilateral, more humanitarian, more social and more keen on environmental interests.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Locked Up

Akon - Locked Up
from a great sampler entitled In Prison - Afro-American Prison Music From Blues to HipHop

A Zeit article fleetingly mentioned the fact that the American base in Rammstein (or was it somewhere else? definitely somewhere in Germany anyway) has become the most important communication and commanding centre for the American military in regard to operations carried out in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. In a possible worst case scenario (Republicans defending their majorities in both the Senate and the House and another - Republican or not - President elected in 2008 who decides to act aggressively and unilaterally) I wonder what kind of implications this has on Germany's sovereignty.

I realize that this will not be an issue anytime in the near or foreseeable future, but let's face it, the presence of this command structure on German soil when the German public and its politicians do not support any of the policies carried out through this base is questioning Germany's grip on its own territory. Let's ignore for a minute the impossibility of offending the most powerful German ally and reflect on this only as a theoretical aspect of political thought. The completely sovereign nation Germany became again with reunification in 1990 does have total power over its territory. When one considers this I seriously wonder about Germany's sovereignty in regard to the fact that another nation is able to act counter to any political or popular will in Germany. I have not thought this through all that well, my day has been a little too challenging intellectually but I believe this is an interesting if disturbing train of thought.

This does not mean I would endorse an attempt to close these bases and forfeiting the contracts with the USA regarding these aspects (nor do I really know how these are phrased). I actually am of the opinion that the ramifications of any kind of act like this would be far more negative than any perceived positive impact could be. But that is Realpolitik and this post I consider to be more a political philosophy nature.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Kris Kristofferson - Sunday Morning Coming Down
The lyrics somehow seemed to fit my morning quite well.

I am usually not all that interested in this whole the emergence of China as an economic and political world power subject. But there was an article in yesterday's LeMonde that really caught my attention. I had not seen any mention of this in either the German, nor the American papers I consume, maybe I just hadn't seen it, maybe this is due to the French post-colonial aspirations in Africa. Whatever the reason, it was quite astonishing to read that the Chinese government is currently holding a conference with 48 (I repeat 48!, according to Wikipedia there are 61 in total) African dirigeants (prime ministers, presidents or brotherly leaders and guides of the revolution) in Beijing. Hu Jintao dubbed this an événement historique and definitelyly agree. In fact this is just crazy, China is really exerting itself in Africa and this I find is quite scary.

Why is this scary? Quite simple, to just give one example, look at Sudan. Everybody knows there is a genocide supported by the government taking place. So why does no one act on this? Yes, forces are stretched thin, the Americans can barely sustain their troop strength in Iraq, the rest of the West is busy in Lebanon, the Congo, Afghanistan and so on, but could one not at least impose sanctions against the Sudan? If one just tightens the economic screws a little the fallout in Khartoum would be massive and would definitely increase pressure on Al-Bashir to act against the crimes committed in Darfur. This is where China comes into the picture. Urgently in need of esourceses to further fuel their astonishing growth (and thus protect the Communist Party's grip on power, but that is another story that I will not get into right now) the Sudan is one of their biggest importers of oil. Now, China as a veto-power in the Security Council has and will block any attempt to force the Sudan into any kind of less murderous policy.

Notre principe dans nos relations avec les autres pays est de ne jamais chercher à imposer notre système social, notre mode de développement nos valeurs, ni notre idéologie. Basically what the Chinese in Africa are saying is that, we don't give a fuck how cruel or with what methods you govern your country, nor do we care how you came into power in the first place as long as you trade with us (translation of diplomatic French into plain English provided by yours truly). Disgusting that.

Two side notes to close this.

French companies have invested 25 billion Euro in Iran over the last fifteen years, wonder how that will influence the French stance on sanctions against Iran.

According to LeMonde Deval Patrick has decent chances of being elected governor of Massachusetts, that would make him the second (yes, second!) black governor ever (yes, ever!) elected in the United States. Also, something which I hadn't known either is that Barack Obama is the only black Senator currently holding office. What a sad state of affairs.