Thursday, December 30, 2010

When an ex-KGB chief runs a country...

...and controls what the courts do with those who oppose him, it is little wonder that justice is not done. And so, whatever little Med may promise in the way of democratic reform and rule of law and respect for human rights, Russia remains under the iron fist of a master spy. Putin today had his way and had his judge sentence the "oil thief" K to 14 years in prison, meaning he has six more to go as he's already been in for 7+.
We had all better wake up and start screaming incessantly at all those countries and leaders trampling on justice and denying human rights to their citizens! It's a bad wave of devastating machinations that's rolling over the globe!

Russian tycoon Khodorkovsky sentenced to 14 years, signaling Putin hard line
The Washington Post, by Kathy Lally, Thursday, December 30, 2010
Although the conviction had been considered inevitable because of Putin's animosity toward Khodorkovsky, the length of the sentence was seen as an indication of whether Putin would permit the liberalization and rule of law that President Dmitry A. Medvedev has been endorsing.
The maximum sentence of 14 years seemed a resounding no to that question. It means Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, who were already serving eight years on related tax charges, will remain behind bars until 2017, with credit for time served.
"The full sentence of 14 years would indicate the end of Medvedev's modernization," Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said as the trial was drawing to a close. "You cannot talk about liberalization when the rule of law is so shamefully betrayed."

Shame indeed! Schande! Honte!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Monday Evening New Snow

It was still falling as we took this photo; by morning, well, you can imagine.

Monday, December 27, 2010

In Defense of an Oil Baron?

Is it necessary to protest against the guilty verdict announced by a Russian court against Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Moscow today? After all, he is super wealthy, certainly took advantage of every possibility to line his pockets available, but he is an opponent of Putin and has already been in prison for seven years awaiting the outcome of this trial on charges of embezzlement. Mr. Putin, only a few days ago, called him "a thief who belongs in jail", which is quite an impartial pronouncement from a Russian premier only a few day prior to the (postponed, for that reason?) announcement of the verdict.
Now we can all wait who knows how long for the other shoe to drop: the sentence, which will be the next indication of whether justice in Russia is possible these days.
Mr. Putin had earlier, back in 2000, warned Mikhail that he could keep his holdings if he did not interfere with the Kremlin and stayed out of politics. Mikhail Khodorkovsky did not stay out of politics and has therefore been staying in prison for quite some time.
Mr. Medvedev should sieze the opportunity to demonstrate the capacity of Russia to achieve and promote justice with independent courts, or, if necessary, with a presidential pardon or commutation of the sentence, whenever it finally comes.
And when WikiLeaks releases documents on the involvment of prosecution and judges in this case with Putin and his election and governmental machine, I will be sure to read them and all analyses true journalists provide of them.
Come on, Mother Russia, join the world of justice!

Imprisoned Russian Oil Tycoon Is Convicted Again
The New York Times, by CLIFFORD J. LEVY and ANDREW E. KRAMER, Published: December 27, 2010
Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky was found guilty Monday on embezzlement charges in a case seen as a sign of the Kremlin’s control of the justice system.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Intentionally Unbalanced News

Hungary's draconian new law to control and punish any media reports considered by an autonomous and unchecked board composed of members of the governing nationalist party to be objectionable, immoral, or not presenting a balanced view is contrary to all important aspects of the human right to freedom of expression! They have not even attempted to define the vague terms you can be charged with violaton of, and are rightly criticized for heading in the direction of totalitarian states and dictatorships in curtailment of freedom of the press. The aptest comparison is with the mustached dictatorship in White Russia.
Unfortunately, Hungary has the rotating presidency of the EU for the coming six months, and the recourse of Hungarians and Europeans concerned with freedom and democracy is an appeal to the European Court to strike down the Hungarian law and remind them that only states committed to human rights and democracy may be members of the European Union.
As this brief account is intentionally unbalanced, since I have no intention of considering any reasons for infringement on freedom of expression here, I do indeed hope Hungary will join China in blocking acces to my blog. That would be an honor.

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's parliament passed legislation on Tuesday to tighten government control over news outlets which media watchdogs say is arbitrary and ill-defined.
The new National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH), dominated by people loyal to the ruling Fidesz party, will oversee all public news production and its powers will include levying big fines on private media that violate the law.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn criticised the move in an interview with Reuters in Germany, saying the European Commission must take swift action against it.
"The plans clearly violate the spirit and the letter of EU treaties," Asselborn said, adding: "It raises the question whether such a country is worthy of leading the EU."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The New Universal Enemy

For all of those paranoid individuals, tea-drunken simplistic partiers, not-with-me-is-against-me antagonists, and others who just can't face themselves in a mirror without a scapegoat to blame for everything they don't like, we in Berlin have discovered the new universal enemy, the source of all terroristic disruptions, the fundamentalist of all times, the factor everyone must look under their beds to find, the one thing responsible for whatever doesn't work, the reason the trains, buses, trams, planes cannot transport us anymore, the threat to our modern day civilization, way of life, apple pie, and motherhood, the demon of the evil axis, the axis of evil itself ...


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ask Me, and I'll Tell You ...

Glad that my homeland, despite paling tea parties, is creeping slowly into the Twenty-first Century. Finally, gays who serve in the military do not have to hide to defend their country.

The Washington Post:

"The U.S. military will for the first time in history allow gays to serve openly after the Senate voted Saturday to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the policy that has required such troops to hide their sexual identity or risk being expelled from the services."

The next step is to recognize gay union/marriage throughout the country, and then, for everyone, to make sure that the military will be made ever more unnecessary by achieving true and stable world peace.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just so you don't believe there's not any more ...

... SNOW in Berlin, here's a slide show beginning December 1 with the last mobile shot taken this morning on the way to an appointment.

News, Some Good, Some Bad, Some Absurd

Let's give the good news first. The House has voted to REPEAL the DADT regulation for the US military. Now it is time for the Senate also to acknowledge that you can defend your country whoever you may happen to prefer as a sex partner!

House votes again to end 'don't ask, don't tell'
By Ed O'Keefe Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, December 15, 2010; 11:16 PM
House lawmakers on Wednesday again approved a bill to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law, delivering renewed momentum to the years-long campaign to end the ban on gays in the military ahead of a possible Senate vote next week.
Next, there is indeed some very bad news, the continuing effort of the US government to block WikiLeaks. This is no terrorist organization; quite the contrary, it is dedicated to making available to all any information that is left in the open by any organization anywhere. That there is so much from the US and so little from other countries indicates no bias, but rather that the US is perhaps much laxer about how many people get to read all those things they don't want anyone to read.
I continue to maintain that the information I have attained via the research that Le Monde, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel have done on those leaked documents is all news that I find important to know and wish I had had access to sooner. Perhaps the bushbaby wouldn't have been able to start an illegal war in Iraq if such had flooded the media back then! Even more alarming is the news that Pentagon computers and military branch computers are now blocking access to sites reporting from those files, such as The New York Times. I wonder if they include The Guardian (British after all) or recognize what's in El Pais. These efforts remind me very disturbingly of what China does to censor the internet and to block its citizens access to information and their right to express their opinions. Protecting freedoms against the encroachment of exaggerated security concerns is one of the reasons I voted for you, Mr. Obama, so do something NOW to stop this encroachment on freedom of speech!
by Charles Savage, The New York Times, Dec. 15,2010
Since WikiLeaks began making public large caches of classified United States government documents this year, Justice Department officials have been struggling to come up with a way to charge Mr. Assange with a crime. Among other things, they have studied several statutes that criminalize the dissemination of restricted information under certain circumstances, including the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.
But while prosecutors have used such laws to go after leakers and hackers, they have never successfully prosecuted recipients of leaked information for passing it on to others — an activity that can fall under the First Amendment’s strong protections of speech and press freedoms.
And the last bit is a ridiculous item about fundamentalists again banning art. What is alarming this time is that the fundamentalists are Catholics and that they are banning art in Washington, DC, while skipping out on the discussion about that art in New York City. No religion has the right to determine what is art, nor do they have the right to block anyone's access to any form of expression. Let them preach from their own pulpits, pound on their own altars, raise their voices from their own minarets, but leave me free to look at whatever I want to, even a picture of a man from Nazareth or one from Medina/Mecca covered with anything they may find objectionable.
The Washington Post
Local arts activists led a protest march from the Transformer art space at 14th and P streets NW to the National Portrait Gallery, where officials recently removed a work of video art depicting Christ with ants crawling over him after complaints from a Catholic organization and members of Congress.

Monday, December 13, 2010

This Snowman is living and working in Berlin these days!

not only in the mountains, my friends, but also in the city of Berlin

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Human Rights Day 2010

Yesterday was Human Rights Day, this years theme was the fight to end discrimination.

Fittingly for this day, LIU XIAOBO was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in absentia. He is a determined fighter for human rights and reminds us that the basis of human rights in general is freedom of expression.

I salute Liu Xiaobo as well as all others who struggle for human rights. We, in democracies, have it easier to protect those rights we have, even when they may at times be infringed upon; but the truly courageous are those who live in countries that imprison them for demanding human rights. Incarcerating, torturing, impeding someone who is merely trying freely to speak or write his opinion is an unconscienable act under any system anywhere. We humans all have bodies subject to pain and spirits that are only human because we can freely think and speak; this is why human rights are universal-

Thursday, December 9, 2010


You, too, can sign this appeal to demand China not only to free the Nobel Peace Prize winner 2010 Liu Xiaobo, but also to honor him!

Here, the text of the appeal from the internationales literaturfestival berlin, followed by the English and German links to the site where you can sign :

Appeal for Freedom for Liu Xiaobo

The internationales literaturfestival berlin appeals for a signing of this letter and a worldwide reading on 20th March 2011 of the ‘Charter 08’ and the poem ‘You wait for me with Dust’ by Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2010.
Liu Xiaobo is currently the world’s only winner of the Nobel Peace Prize still held in detention. In 2009, after co-authoring ‘Charter 08’, a manifesto calling for greater freedoms and democracy in China, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to eleven years in prison on a spurious charge of “inciting subversion of state power”. His continued imprisonment is a basic breach of human rights, and also a violation of China’s own constitution where Article 35 states that “Citizens of
the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”.
1936 was the last time neither the winner, German journalist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, nor any of his family members, could go to Oslo to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. They were all barred from leaving Nazi Germany. This historical comparison should disturb the Chinese government. China has made extraordinary economic progress over the last few decades. The country is now the world’s second largest economy, and a powerful player on the global stage.
China is rightly proud of these achievements, but it should also value democracy.
The preamble to ‘Charter 08’ states that “Chinese citizens are becoming increasingly aware that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values shared by all humankind, and that democracy, republicanism, and constitutional government make up the basic institutional framework of modern politics. A “modernization” bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives people of their rights, rots away their humanity, and destroys their dignity. Where is China headed in the 21st century? Will it continue with this “modernization” under authoritarian rule, or will it endorse universal values, join the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic form of government?”
Now is China’s chance to take a magnanimous step towards democracy. China can do this immediately – by showing pride that one of its citizens, Liu Xiaobo, has received the world’s greatest award in recognition of a struggle to uphold human rights. This award should be an honour for China, too.
In 2005, Liu Xiaobo wrote:
“Didn't they say that China was in a golden moment of historical peak, and that the state of human rights is at the very best? Didn't they say that the present government wants to treat "the people as the foundation" in order to build a "harmonious society"? Then why is the government which has built the golden and almighty China so panicky? Why in this "harmonious society" in which "the people are the foundation" are I and other dissidents treated like trash to be stomped upon? Why must the "harmonious society" be constructed only with police officers posted at stations?”
It does not befit a great country to denounce the Nobel Peace Prize, expand the restrictive security net around a peace laureate to include his friends and relatives, and persuade foreign diplomats to boycott the prize ceremony. Since the prize announcement, there has been no let-up in the harassment of Liu’s family and supporters, and all others attempting free speech activities in China. Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest. Several Chinese human rights activists have been prevented from leaving the country in case they go to Oslo, and Liu’s brothers are pessimistic about their chances of being able to travel in his place.
Chinese citizens make up one fifth of the world’s population. Liu Xiaobo’s case is not the story of one man: he is a symbol of the aspirations and treatment of 1.3 billion people.
The call for worldwide readings of ‘Charter 08’, and Liu Xiaobo’s poem ‘You Wait for me with Dust’, signify support for the campaigner, and a call for his release from prison.
A courageous activist all his life, Liu Xiaobo once wrote that “in a dictatorial country, open letters signed by individuals or groups form an important method for the civilians to resist dictatorship and fight for freedom.” And so we, citizens of the world, sign this appeal – some with our names, and many, many more with our voices, which will be raised on 20th March 2011 to read Liu’s words – and show solidarity with him, and others in China, who are not free to say what they want.
We will continue to speak up until there is an end to the unjust incarceration of Liu Xiaobo, and others like him.


English language site for signing the appeal
I have signed it and would be very pleased if everyone else who reads it does the same!

The World Has Become Snow

A week ago today it started snowing, and now it shows no sign of stopping ever again!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Countries Against the Nobel Peace Prize

Caving in to pressure from the People's (!) Republic (!) of China, 18 additional countries have declined invitations to attend the ceremony in Oslo to present
the award in a couple of days. Of course, HIS chair will also remain empty, because China continues to hold the
in prison and keeps his wife under arrest, forbidding her to attend as well. China has warned his relatives not to attend, and has already hindered many of his supporters attempting to leave the country, perhaps to be in Oslo in a couple of days.
Most shameful, after the utter shame China itself has, is the announcement of Navi Pillay, UN Human Rights Commissioner, of South African origin, that whe will not attend. That's what I call standing up for Human Rights, lady! Shame on you!
Russia, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia, Kasachstan, Columbia, Tunesia, Serbia, Iraq (!), Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan (!), Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba, and Morocco prefer to bow to the Chinese tramplers of human rights, thus share the shame of China, claiming that the author of
Charter 08
is a common criminal.
Well, then, I'm a common criminal, too, because I believe
very much deserves this prize, is a shining example of civil courage against dictators and violators of human rights, and I would very much like to go to Oslo and watch the ceremony. There will be 19 empty seats for countries snubbing the Nobel Peace Prize, one from the UN, so there would be more than enough room. The most horrid empty chair will be the one
should occupy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Leadership for Europe!

Finally someone has said what is all too obvious: the apprentices running around with the mantle of government positions casually and stylishly draped over their shoulders are none too sure what they need to do, for Europe or their individual countries. And indeed, the tasks are the same for both; what is good the European Union is all that is good for any individual member country.
Now former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has spoken up and put his finger in the wound of dilettantism. Here, a few excerpts in English, followed by the links to the original English version of the interview with David Marsh and the German and English translations.

Schmidt: Leadership wanted in Europe

I would say that, in general, Europe lacks leaders. It lacks people in high positions in the national states or in the European institutions with sufficient overview of domestic and international questions and sufficient power of judgment.
Additionally, the present German government is composed of people who are learning their business on the job. They have no previous experience in world political affairs or in world economic affairs. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is a man whom I wish well and for whom I have great personal respect. He well understands budgetary and taxation problems. But when it comes to international money markets or capital markets or the banking system or the supervision of banks or shadow banks, this is all new to him. The same goes for [Chancellor Angela] Merkel. This is not to say anything negative about Schäuble or anything negative about Merkel, but we need people in high office who understand the economic world of today.
One very important figure was [former European Commission President] Jacques Delors . He has been replaced by people whose name one doesn’t really know. And the same goes for permanent secretaries and the chairmen of various commissions and for prime ministers and — what is his name — [European Council President Herman] Van Rompuy? And he has a so-called foreign secretary — a British lady, her name is not necessary to know either. The same goes, more or less, for the European Parliament. The only figure who sticks out in the European institutions is [European Central Bank President Jean-Claude] Trichet. I’m not sure how strong he is inside the European Central Bank, But, as far as I can see, he hasn’t made a major mistake so far.
One of the weakest points in the global economy is that there is no control of the behavior of financial managers. You can divide mankind into three categories. In the first category are normal people like you and me. We may have once stolen an apple from a neighbor’s trees when we were boys, or we may have taken a bar of chocolate from a supermarket without paying for it. But otherwise we are dependable, normal human beings. Then secondly you have a small category of people with a criminal character. And thirdly you have investment bankers. That includes all the dealers and the deal makers. They all sail under different names, but they’re all the same.

Helmut Schmidt im Interview: „Im tiefsten Herzen sind die Bundesbanker Reaktionäre“ (bei am 07.12.2010 veröffentlicht)

Entretien avec Helmut Schmidt, ancien chancelier allemand (1974-1982) : "L'Europe manque de dirigeants"

For Venice

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Was it a wicker chair that leaked?

Germany's make-believe Foreign Minister Westernwave claimed he would pay no attention to the leaks about him being arrogant, aggressive, and incompetent, but ended up so pissed that he fired his office manager for talking to the US ambassador in Berlin, which was the man's job at that time as "party liaison with foreign representatives". Angela Merkel is so very teflon that she brought a cartoon about her being labled the teflon chancellor by wicker leaks and laughed about it with her arrogant vice-chancellor and foreign minister during a meeting of parliament, which she considers disturbing and unimportant, because they debate what she had already decided to have her ministers do.

I've actually not heard anything about any of the German politicians portrayed in those cables between the Berlin embassy and Washington that is not, I believe, entirely true and which I did not already think myself, as well as do most of the people I know.
And about Berlusconi and Sarkozy, well that was also all old news. That Qadaffi let nuclear material lie around in the desert without any supervision also doesn't really suprise me either, and I think it's good that we got to know about it.

Actually I don't really see what everybody (especially Hillary) got all upset about, although the wicker chair should concentrate on the dictators and commando countries around the world some, such as China, Iran, N.Korea, even Russia, because they should really use a lot more exposure. I'd like to know what those jerks say among themselves about officials in the rest of the world, where free speech is an essential right!

Consider this tidbit The New York Times reports from the wicker chair leaks about China:

Cables Discuss Vast Hacking by a China That Fears the Web
As China ratcheted up the pressure on Google to censor its Internet searches last year, the American Embassy sent a secret cable to Washington detailing why top Chinese leaders had become so obsessed with the Internet search company: they were Googling themselves.
The May 18, 2009, cable, titled “Google China Paying Price for Resisting Censorship,” quoted a well-placed source as saying that Li Changchun, a member of China’s top ruling body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and the country’s senior propaganda official, was taken aback to discover that he could conduct Chinese-language searches on Google’s main international Web site. When Mr. Li typed his name into the search engine at, he found “results critical of him.”
That cable from American diplomats was one of many made public by WikiLeaks that portray China’s leadership as nearly obsessed with the threat posed by the Internet to their grip on power — and, the reverse, by the opportunities it offered them, through hacking, to obtain secrets stored in computers of its rivals, especially the United States.
Extensive Chinese hacking operations, including one leveled at Google, are a central theme in the cables. The hacking operations began earlier and were aimed at a wider array of American government and military data than generally known, including attacks on computers of American diplomats preparing positions on a climate change treaty.
One cable, dated early this year, quoted a Chinese person with family connections to the elite as saying that Mr. Li himself directed an attack on Google’s servers in the United States, though that claim has been called into question. In an interview with The New York Times, the person cited in the cable said that Mr. Li personally led a campaign against Google’s operations in China but that to his knowledge had no role in the hacking attack.
The cables catalog the heavy pressure that was placed on Google to comply with local censorship laws, as well as Google’s willingness to comply — up to a point. That coercion began building years before the company finally decided to pull out of China last spring in the wake of the successful hacking attack on its home servers, which yielded Chinese dissidents’ e-mail accounts as well as Google’s proprietary source code.
The cables also reveal that a surveillance system dubbed Ghostnet that stole information from the computers used by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and South Asian governments and was uncovered in 2009 was linked to a second broad series of break-ins into American government computers code-named Byzantine Hades. Government investigators were able to make a “tenuous connection” between those break-ins and the People’s Liberation Army.
The documents also reveal that in 2008 German intelligence briefed American officials on similar attacks beginning in 2006 against the German government, including military, economic, science and technology, commercial, diplomatic, and research and development targets. The Germans described the attacks as preceding events like the German government’s meetings with the Chinese government.

Quite honestly, I'm glad to know, and to know that the whole world (with the exception of those living in China) knows about the disgusting trampling on free information and opinion that China perpetrates!

Let's here the shenanigans of Putin's new Russian secret police as well.

Keep that wicker chair rocking, and just remember that people have always some day found out when you say something "bad" even if true about someone else!

And then enjoy this great song and dance number cartoon by Mark Fiore about the loss of diplomatic secrecy.

Have fun, and don't forget to watch those gaps in your wicker chair.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Here we go again ...

It snowed a lot last night, the tram was already late and slow, and the S-Bahn, the by now nearly eternal problem child of Berlin mass transit managed to do a great DISSERVICE to all commuters. Only because I go the other way around on the ring than recommended could I get in the train at all, and that was the last station that everyone waiting managed to board. Two stations later, no one else could fit into the train and there must have been a 5-6 person deep mob lining the entire edge of the platform - a wonder no one fell in the gap. It took me 65 minutes in the S-Bahn for a stretch that normally takes 20-25 minutes. But then I'm an early bird and still managed to arrive on time. (Normally I'm a good thirty minutes early.) On the way home I could also shoot some cell phone pics of nicer scenery, as well as out our window only a few minutes ago.
And it's only December 2 !

**** UPDATE, Saturday, December 4: It's now official. The S-Bahn only managed to have HALF (52%) of its operating stock on the rails yesterday, which was an "improvement" from Thursday! Only 32% were "on time", which doesn't make clear that those that were late were sometimes more than one hour late! And before it got cold and snowed, the S-Bahn management promised they had everything under control and prepared so that what happened last winter wouldn't happen this winter. Well, they've broken their promise again!