Sunday, March 30, 2008

This, Too, Is Berlin...

And after such a hike, ours today, when you leave the woods, there's a very good Italian restaurant waiting to serve you lunch: antipasto misto, pasta mista, chef's salad. MMMM. And then you walk over to the S-Bahn for the ride home, upload the photos, tell the blog to share them, and ...

Friday, March 28, 2008

We Can and Must All Speak Up Against China's Scorn for Human Rights!

Not only can French athletes petition the Chinese president, not only can Tibetan monks manage to decry their plight during China's "controlled" roadshow for hand-selected foreign journalists at risk of reprisals, YOU TOO, as I have, can sign a petition FOR human rights and AGAINST Chinese authoritarianism:

Petition to Chinese President Hu Jintao:
As citizens around the world, we call on you to show restraint and respect for human rights in your response to the protests in Tibet, and to address the concerns of all Tibetans by opening meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Only dialogue and reform will bring lasting stability. China's brightest future, and its most positive relationship with the world, lies in harmonious development, dialogue and respect.

Here is the link to the AVAAZ.ORG website to add your signature to this petition:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Human Rights and the Olympics in China

As a group of fifteen olympic sportsmen in France have shown, it is possible to say to Chinese leadership that their actions in TIBET are NOT acceptable. It is indeed time to remind the "clique" there again and again that they promised to improve the human rights "situation" in that commando-communist-capitalist country with internal border controls and without retirement benefits or rights for its citizens prior to the Olympic games opening there. They have not done so!

It was a mistake to site the games in Peking this year!

Quinze athlètes français appellent Pékin au respect des droits de l'homme
LEMONDE.FR 27.03.08
En plein débat sur la répression au Tibet et un éventuel boycott de la cérémonie d'ouverture des Jeux olympiques de Pékin, quinze sportifs français – parmi lesquels Christine Arron, Muriel Hurtis et Yohann Diniz – signent dans les colonnes du Nouvel Observateur, jeudi 27 mars, un appel au président chinois, Hu Jintao, pour qu'il tienne sa parole de "respecter les droits de l'homme" et qu'il ne "gâche pas les Jeux".
© Le

The text of the appeal to the President of China reads in quick English translation as follows:
Mister President...
For being granted permission to organize the Olympic Games in Peking, the Chinese government committed itself to respecting human rights. Today, the violent repression of the riots in Tibet seriously conflicts with this promise given to the Olympic movement. The most fundamental rights are not being respected: neither personal integrity nor freedom of expression are possible in China. Mister President, some of us will be your guests in five months. As sportsmen, we have dedicated our entire existence to achieving this honor: participating in the most beautiful event invented by man. We believe that the Games, beyond the merchandising of sports, political rivalries, and instrumentalization, represent the purist humanity has: overcoming the self, brotherhood, friendship, and respect among peoples. We cannot be made hostages of politics nor a shield for an authoritarian regime. That is why, Mister President, we are asking you, today, solemnly, to honor your word. Do not spoil the Games.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Update - Pictures

worth thousands of words...

Easter Greetings to Everyone

Well, we had no White Christmas in Berlin last time, but we're having a White Easter Sunday, albeit only powdery in the city, but we're expecting to see more of a ground cover when we go out to visit and lunch with Edith. Although we actually all wanted to go to Heiko's birthday party (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, brother/brother-in-law!), their son Malte has fever and bronchitis, not something Edith can deal with after her second chemo round only a good week ago and her counts still down. So we're spending the day with her and leaving Heiko with his snotty-nosed family but with our best wishes (also to father-in-law Bernie & wife Rosie, who will risk infection to eat birthday cake).
How can you hide Easter eggs in the snow?
Maybe we can get some photos of this early Easter Berlin landscape and one of the few instances of winter weather we've had this year.
The Chick that laid colored eggs near an NC cotton field last year is on our windowsill looking out at the snow this year.
Chicora Court also has our best wishes and fond memories, and we trust they can sense how endeared they are to us there.
The Dukey traitorous niece (heard we supported the wrong team against UNC in a major game) still has warm greetings headed her way...
To Charleston we're sending a grown-up nephew wishes for fulfillment of his own.
And to Greenville, SC, the lady-in-waiting and her consort are getting big virtual hugs.
To any and all tysonial and gardnerian visitors, you of course know that we miss you all and wish you too a beautiful new season as Easter comes and goes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Change Without Blame

I for one have long - for oh so very long - not heard a speech, especially by a politician, that so goes to the core of things as did Mr. Obama's in Philadelphia yesterday. Blame has never fixed anything, but recognizing where antagonisms and resentments arise is indeed, as he says, a beginning for improvement. His remarks show an aptitude of thought which goes far beyond the narrower confines of the US-American arena and is directed at the essential questions of our world of humans. Consider Being, just consider the possibility of others also wishing for a humane, peaceful, just world of true freedoms and equitability. This speech by Mr. Obama, provoked by the festering wound of latent-to-blatant racism in the US and the puss and pain that it produces, in conversations, in a sidelong glance, in a sneer, in a shrug of the shoulders, in an unfair accusation, denial of a request, rejection of an application, or even a blow in the face, and this time in his own pastor's divisive and bigoted statements, demonstrates that Mr. Obama is ready, willing, and able to address REAL problems and issues, rather than to succumb to the distractions of our world society of spectacle, that he can and DOES think deeply of what is important for individual humans to live together in a society sharing without exploiting, that he is fit to be President of the United States, that he as President of the US would also finally place a thinker in the arena of World Politics, one determined NOT to avoid the issues of real import confronting us but to tackle those issues dividing the peoples of this world which we really all must share. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fifth Anniversary of a Playpen War

Iraq five years later.

Baghdad is more divided than ever - A short film courtesy of Guardian Films, Tuesday March 18th, 2008
On the fifth anniversary of the US/British-led invasion of Iraq, the Guardian's award-winning foreign correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has teamed up with ITV News to bring us a series of extraordinary films for the ITV News and In these unprecedented films he, as an Iraqi, goes where foreign journalists can no longer go - to the heart of Baghdad's most dangerous sectarian zones. He uncovers Iraq's own killing fields where only the "killers and the killed" can
visit; and he reveals the desperate truth of the trafficked children of Iraq.
At least on the sixth anniversary, there won't be any bushbaby around to lie about it anymore.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Another Example of Chinese "Improvements" in Human Rights

Chinese Forces Say They’ve Secured Tibet’s Capital - New York Times

Foreign journalists are being restricted from traveling to Lhasa, and the precise death toll remains unknown. State media reported 10 deaths and characterized most of them as shopkeepers. The government’s official news agency, Xinhua, reported that the victims had been “burned to death.”
The demonstrations in Lhasa began Monday and continued through Wednesday as peaceful protests by Buddhist monks from three different monasteries. Some monks protested against religious restrictions while others demanded an end to Chinese rule and even waved the Tibetan flag. The police arrested scores of monks and then reportedly tightened security around the three monasteries so that monks could not leave.

Welcome to the Olympic Spirit of the "people's" republic of china. Maybe the bushbaby should send his playpen on a tour of this dynamic example of respect for freedom and justice.

Etat de siège au Tibet
LE MONDE 15.03.08
L'exaspération des Tibétains doit être grande pour qu'ils prennent le risque de défier Pékin au coeur du sanctuaire de Lhassa, la ville la plus contrôlée de Chine. Là est le principal enseignement de cette poussée de fièvre : malgré une implacable répression, que le dalaï-lama qualifie d'"inimaginable", malgré une politique de sinisation brutale qui pourrait un jour rendre les Tibétains minoritaires sur leur sol, des moines bravent la peur pour interpeller la communauté internationale. Ce courage mérite d'être salué.
La partie, hélas, s'annonce périlleuse. Pour le régime, le Tibet constitue un enjeu stratégique sur lequel il ne fléchira pas. Il y a fort à parier qu'au lendemain de ces troubles il jouera sur une corde nationaliste à laquelle la population chinoise est extrêmement sensible. Nombre de Chinois, et pas seulement ceux qui soutiennent le PCC, ont du mal à s'affranchir d'une vision paranoïaque de l'histoire. Ils sont convaincus que l'Occident conspire afin d'entraver l'essor de la Chine, jadis humiliée, aujourd'hui renaissante. Il faut qu'ils comprennent qu'une puissance n'est grande que si ses minorités souhaitent l'intégrer sur une base volontaire, et non forcée.

© Le

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Takes One to Know One ...

... or: Playpen Seeks New Playmate Made in China

The ricey version of a State Department subservient to the bushbaby has announced, contrary to ALL other assessments of the situation there, that China has "improved" in human rights! Shocking considering the nearly daily reports of censorship and bludgeoning that its "citizens" must endure, including the fact that most do NOT even have any form of state retirement (now that's comm(unist)ando-style economics for you!).

To wit:

Reporters Without Borders
Beijing Games update
12.03: monks arrested in Lhasa protests, while exiles in India start long march

The New York Times, Washington, By HELENE COOPER, Published: March 12, 2008
U.S. Drops China From List of Top 10 Violators of Rights
"The State Department no longer considers China one of the world’s worst human rights violators, a decision that immediately earned the ire of human rights groups."

Washington retire la Chine de la liste des Etats les plus répressifs
LE MONDE 12.03.08
La Chine, qui figurait l'an dernier et en 2005 sur cette liste, change de statut. Le département d'Etat la requalifie en "pays autoritaire en pleine réforme économique ayant vécu des changements sociaux rapides mais n'ayant pas procédé à des réformes politiques et continuant à nier à ses citoyens les droits de l'homme et les libertés fondamentales basiques".
© Le

The Washington Post
U.S. Delisting of China Upsets Rights Activists
By Jill Drew, Washington Post Foreign Service, Thursday, March 13, 2008; A13

BEIJING, March 12 -- Human rights activists on Wednesday decried the U.S. State Department's decision to drop China from its list of the world's worst human rights violators, saying that China's crackdown on dissent is getting worse as it prepares to host the Olympic Games in August.
"We and others have documented a sharp uptick in human rights violations directly related to preparations for the Olympics," said Phelim Kine, Asia researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch. The decision comes at the worst possible time for activists seeking to pressure Beijing to relax restrictions on free speech, release political prisoners and improve human rights protections, Kine added.

Human Rights Watch (New York, March 12, 2008)
China: Beijing’s Migrant Construction Workers Abused
Builders of the ‘New Beijing’ Cheated of Wages, Denied Essential Services – Migrant construction workers building the “new Beijing” are routinely exploited by being denied proper wages, under dangerous conditions with neither accident insurance nor access to medical and other social services, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

U.S. State Department: 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

For example, China’s overall human rights record remained poor in 2007. Controls were tightened on religious freedom in Tibetan areas and in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and the treatment of petitioners in Beijing worsened. The government also continued to monitor, harass, detain, arrest, and imprison activists, writers, journalists, and defense lawyers and their families, many of whom were seeking to exercise their rights under the law. Although the government pursued some important reforms, such as the Supreme People’s Court’s resumption of death penalty review power in cases handed down for immediate execution, efforts to reform or abolish the reeducation-through-labor system remained stalled. New temporary regulations improved overall reporting conditions for foreign journalists, but enforcement of these regulations was not consistent, hindering the work of some foreign journalists. The year 2007 saw increased efforts to control and censor the Internet, and the government tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the domestic press. The government continued to monitor, harass, detain, arrest, and imprison journalists, Internet writers, and bloggers. NGOs reported 29 journalists and 51 cyber-dissidents and Internet users remained in jail at year’s end. There was a 20 percent increase over 2006 in convictions of citizens under China’s overly broad state security law that is often used to silence government critics. In December, well-known human rights activist Hu Jia was arrested at his home and detained for suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” His wife and infant daughter were reportedly put under house arrest at the same time. NGOs, both local and international, faced intense scrutiny and restrictions.

The above quote from the report is enough to show how little the chinese plutocrats care about their citizens and their rights. Perhaps they're too busy making cheap plastic copies of everything westerners desire for their big smoke and veil olympic-show, coming to a tv near you. They deserve total scorn and no audience at all.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Second Round

The Berlin mom is back in for her second round of chemo, started yesterday, hoping to get out on Friday. It was all delayed by a week due to her running a fever which put her in to the hospital over the weekend a week ago as her counts were still too low. Other than being ticked off by having to spend time away from home, and recognizing that her hair is going, she's hanging in there, doesn't want any visits (!), just peace and quiet, and wants to cook for us on the weekend (!), which we hope she'll have the energy and stomach for (at least for a visit even if she can't see food then, who knows).
Anyway, we're hoping she won't have any secondary problems this time, since the fever induced hospitalization really got on her nerves. She didn't want to go, till we insisted that she's not in the same situation as before.
At least she agreed to let us call her (but only once a day)! And she's promised to pay attention to what the doctor says (for fear we'll otherwise consult her ourselves).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Brainless Preserve a No-Brainer

The bushbaby, seeking to satisfy the chaingang in his playpen and prove he's still in charge of the rattle, vetoed a bill to prohibit torture (which is actually already forbidden by international law and many treaties the US has signed and all of which the playpen ignores) by the central-agency-for-unintelligence (the one that was caught with its pants down when the Berlin Wall fell, not even to mention in september seven years ago).
Fitting is that the tortured mac-cane himself voted against this bill, cause you just have to let the spies torture to find out stuff, he mumbled in exasperation though not able to throw his arms up in the air for emphasis. Cane that bushbaby!
Justice and democracy are different.

The New York Times: Bush’s Veto of Bill on C.I.A. Tactics Affirms His Legacy
By STEVEN LEE MYERS / Published: March 9, 2008 / WASHINGTON
President Bush on Saturday further cemented his legacy of fighting for strong executive powers, using his veto to shut down a Congressional effort to limit the Central Intelligence Agency’s latitude to subject terrorism suspects to harsh interrogation techniques.
Mr. Bush vetoed a bill that would have explicitly prohibited the agency from using interrogation methods like waterboarding, a technique in which restrained prisoners are threatened with drowning and that has been the subject of intense criticism at home and abroad. Many such techniques are prohibited by the military and law enforcement agencies.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

International Women's Day 2008

Best wishes to all the women we know and all who happen to read this blog on this day in recognition of them and their rights and achievements.

"In just three years time, 2011 will see IWD's Centenary - 100 years of women's united action for global equality and change. Organizations around the world have already commenced planning for their IWD Centenary celebrations.

The first International Women's Day was launched on 8 March 1911 in Copenhagen by Clara Zetkin, Leader of the'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany. This followed many years of women's campaigning dating back to British MP, John Stuart Mill, the first person in Parliament calling for women's right to vote.

On 19 September 1893 New Zealand became the first self-governing nation in the world to give women the right to vote."

International Women's Day 2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Strike is No Insult

That the employees of Berlin's BVG public transportation system for buses, subways, and trams have been on strike since yesterday and will continue it indefinitely is certainly an inconvenience for the city and its citizens and visitors, as only the regional trains and S-Bahn express trains (another company) remain in operation for the millions of people who use the system daily. Some 3.5 million trips daily must be reorganized, and the S-Bahn, though fast, does not have as frequent stops, given that the BVG net should be the more local. On Monday, life could become yet more difficult, as the D-Bahn, operator of regional and S-Bahn trains, will probably again face a driver's strike for not signing the contract they negotiated with them in January. Then, there will only be feet, bikes, mopeds, cars, and taxis for everyone in Berlin (and for many in other towns served by DB or communal firms whose workers are also on strike).

Yesterday, one of this winter's ultra-rare snowstorms further complicated matters, cars stood more than they drove, bike riders arrived with numb fingers, and pedestrians came as snowmen. (Here a photo of the situation from the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel: )

Nonetheless, when an employer deigns to label a strike an insult or an idiotic action rather than negotiating in good faith with the unions on the latters' (legitimate) demand for salary and wage increases, when that employer refuses even to consider paying workers more after years without a pay raise, then those staff members have only one means of pressure in their hands: going on strike, withholding their work.

It is time that stockholders, managers, owners, counseling firms, etc. STOP maintaining that paid work is something to be eliminated, that workers should be reduced at all costs, that wages should only be cut, whether the firm is doing well or not. Workers are people. Companies are not. People work for money to live on. They must. Companies are constructs, but it is not legitimate for them to maintain that their existence and rising profitability is more important than the people working there. THAT IS NOT SO!

So, though we may have to bike or walk to work and appointments, most of us here in Berlin SUPPORT the demands of the BVG strikers and understand their plight. Let us citizens put pressure on the government (who is the employer here) to offer the workers a decent wage increase. And to set a good example for all other employers. Social responsibility and the general welfare of society is much more important than any return on investment anywhere.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Let There Be Art ...

Again it is time to speak out and up for freedom of expression, artistic expression, even satire, even if someone claims to be or is insulted by a work of art, as long, at least, as it is not personally libellous or slanderous.
In this case, a Berlin art gallery
has temporarily, we trust, been forced to close its exhibition opened on February 22 entitled
because six neighborhood thugs stormed in and threatened to return with stones and more if they didn't remove one of the works, a poster of the Kaaba with the title (in German) "Stupid Stone", an insult to their religion, a poster, it must be added, hanging next to one of an orthodox Jew wearing what in the title is called a "Stupid Hat". The entire exhibition is to lay bare the absurdity of neo-Nazi claims of Zionist Occupied Governments, a claim also widespread in the Arab world.
All authorities have agreed to reopen the exhibition on Monday after speaking with law enforcement agencies about measures to protect the exhibition and its visitors and staff.
It is time to put an end to all these iconoclast ravings and be sure we protect and promote the only thing that makes us human: the ability to speak and think freely, even of the uncomfortable and disturbing.
Here, a photo of the corpus delicti from Der Spiegel and the link to their article with more photos; next, the article in Berlin's alternative newspaper TAZ Die Tageszeitung reminding us that this is the sort of thing Putin attempts to do in his "managed Russian democracy" to protect his and his cronies' status and prevent the spread and usage of rights; and finally, the New York Times article from an AP report summarizing the whole situation in English.