Category Archives: Getting political

So much for the Final Solution

It feels weird writing the words ‘final’ and ‘solution’ together for a blog title. I’m inspired by an article I read this last weekend in the Guardian.

It’s pretty amazing.

The long and the short of it, for those of you who can’t tear themselves away from my blog, is that journalist Tanya Gold tracked down a descendent of Adolph Hitler who now lives in Israel as an orthodox Jew. To be more precise, this man, who insists on remaining unnamed, is the illegitimate son of the daughter of Adolph Hitler’s half-brother Alois and a divorced German woman who really, really liked the Nazis.

So, this gentleman is not an actual blood relative of Hitler’s. The article is fantastic though. There is a whole community of Germans living in Israel as converted Jews and, according to Gold at least, many of them seem vague on the real reasons for their conversion, while others maintain that contemporary Israeli society has its own issues with racial intolerance, and even fascism.

Regardless of whether or not the conversion of these people is due to a psychological need to join the ranks of the victims to eradicate their sense of guilt, a dislike of German society, or more spiritual reasons, it’s a fascinating phenomenon.

Personally, it gives me hope. There’s a reason fundamentalists have a sketchy view of history: history shows that in the long term, ideological absolutism is rendered irrelevant by innumerable tiny changes in society and decisions made by individual human beings. The legacy of the Final Solution is not irrelevant, of course; all that hatred caused suffering, but utterly failed in what it set out to do.


Deathmatch 2008: Gordon Brown vs. The Pope

The quest for ratings (also known as the hearts and minds of the people, in politics) is on.  Two titans in the global game have touched down on US soil and been busy on various charm offensives.  

It\'s on.

Well, actually, they’re both in a rather unfortunate position.  If popularity is the measuring stick for success, they’ve both succeeded hugely successful figures.  Benedict XVI has replaced the most popular head of the Roman Catholic Church in the modern era, and considering the limitations of mass communications during the Holy Roman Empire period, probably ever.  Brown has taken over from a man who had a gift for making people like him despite that uneasy feeling he gives all of us, a disastrous venture into Iraq, and the fact that he’s a pod person.

Neither really measure up.  Brown is doing his best, including a rather bizarre video appeal to American Idol viewers recently, but his decision to more or less continue the middle way of the Blair route in England has disappointed a lot of people.  On the other hand, he is having difficulty appealing on a superficial level to a lot of ‘middle England’.  Mind you, I’d rather be ignored by someone willing to vote for David Cameron. 

Benedict XVI, meanwhile, is doing quite well.  This is mainly because a lot of critics seemed to expect him to celebrate his appointment as Pope by breathing fire and rounding up divorcees into labour camps. 

So who wins? Well, it’s no contest really.  God is a big deal in America.  Brown, as a European politician, is correctly a little embarrassed by public discussion of religion.  So, while poor Gordon has to stand outside the Whitehouse and be seen to be jovial with one of the most unpopular men in America, Benedict XVI is rapping with the Almighty in a baseball stadium. 

I’m sorry Gordon.


Something for the weekend

This weekend I have to dress up like a pirate, try and be in two places at once, watch some football, write a skit in Japanese, and try not to go insane.

Fun, no?

The first part will be at least. Though I’m a chronically bad costume person. It really is the least I can get away with stuff.

I’m also a bit down about the complete break in understanding between most westerners and most Chinese over the Tibetan issue. If you browse some facebook groups you can easily find comments calling protestors in France “terrorists”. In my favourite example one guy says how he hopes Hitler resurrects to invade France again. This is in a facebook group where people are complaining the pro-Tibet protestors are the ones going over the top.

Basically, and very predictably, many Chinese have had their nationalist sentiment stoked by what they see as unfair attacks by a western world that wants to hold their country back.

It’s alarming that Chinese living outside China choose not to avail of the free press available in the western countries where they study and work, but it’s far more alarming that they associate all of us who want to improve human rights in China and believe the Chinese government should be censured for holding them back with Richard Gere.

Really. Please. I just hope all Chinese will realise that many of us think Richard Gere is lame too. I’m embarrassed by him and his little clique of pro-Tibet activists. Red Corner was crap. Maybe this can be the tie that binds us.

Human Rights are Human Rights

At least someone seems to care.

Reporters Without Borders protest at Olympic flame ceremony

The very fact the Chinese government seems convinced the current protests in Tibet are an attempt to mar this summer’s Olympics betrays the fears they have regarding possible embarrassment this summer.

The disinclination of governments supposedly built on foundations of human rights and free speech to criticise the Chinese government has been a problem for several years now. Funnily enough, the transition from post-Tiananmen outrage to eager reconciliation seems to have converged rather neatly with the elevation of China’s astounding economic success to even further unbelievable heights in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

None of this is news. But it is simply wrong when Steven Spielberg pulls out of the Olympics on the sole grounds that the Chinese government is complicit in the events in Darfur, when that government is guilty of human rights abuses against its own citizens on a habitual basis.

The argument that things are better than they used to be just doesn’t wash. The current situation in Tibet is highly unlikely to transform into a nationwide problem for Beijing. The vast majority of Chinese agree overwhelmingly with their government on this issue. But it is important to remember that the government tightly controls information delivered to the Chinese population, to a degree that makes the western world’s problems with corporate control of the media seem trivial in comparison.

The Chinese people are proud of their country and who they are; they should be. I don’t begrudge any Chinese person the right to be nationalistic, or the right to choose a different path of development from that of western nations. I believe that the right to free expression of one’s beliefs is a human right, however, and not the exclusive result of Eurocentric philosophical traditions.

China is a fantastic country blessed with rich history and traditions. Criticising the Chinese government is not the same thing as criticising China, or the Chinese people. The world economy has become increasingly reliant on China in recent years, and western nations have become dependent on her exports. It is wrong, however, to allow economic gain to obscure clear human rights issues in China.

The issue is not an example of weaknesses in the capitalist system but rather one of the cowardice of western bureaucracy. The fact that British athletes were ever asked to keep their political beliefs to themselves is a worrying sign of just how much we are willing to compromise our supposedly cherished beliefs to avoid conflict with an increasingly powerful nation. The situation in Tibet is just the latest chapter in the tragic history of a region forgotten by most now the celebrity buzz has passed on, but perhaps it can spur some of us with the right to express ourselves freely to protest and offer criticism of a flawed Chinese system of government in a peaceful and dignified manner.

A bunch of stuff over the week.

A lot has happened this week, and I’ve been busy, but I was committed to write something on my blog today!!

So, a bit of everything.

Barack Obama’s extremely commendable refusal to turn his back on a man who has supported him since he was a child really inspired me this week. His pastor has said some fairly mad things, but that in no way makes Obama complicit in these statements. In fact, though it is of course heresy to even suggest it, the gentleman’s comments have in some cases been overly effusive (and offensive) statements of very plausible truths.

Events in Tibet are very scary. The outside world has no way of knowing who the Chinese government is rounding up, or how they are doing it, unless we take the CCP’s own reports at face value. Now, I am not saying straight out that we cannot do it, but accountability is a supposed strength in the democratic system. Forgive me if I’m not happy to take a politician’s word for it. Regardless of which government that politician represents.

George W. Bush’s speech commemorating the ‘victory’ in Iraq isn’t even worth a stir at this stage, in my opinion. You’re on your way out George. Please just go and play golf and leave everyone alone.

And finally, something very important is happening this Sunday. I am a sucker for tradition, and this weekend I’ll be allowing that most primal of emotions to just wash over me. Hate. Liverpool play Man U. I can’t wait.

I suppose I’ll celebrate Easter, too.

The Aftermath

So, only a few hours before polls closed in Texas I got kind of violently ill. What fun.

In the end it probably enhanced my election experience, as I was too sick to get any work done and so sat there drinking lots of fluids and letting Wolf Blitzer wash all over me. Yes, that’s what I meant to write.

It was all CNN, all the time, and I called Clinton for Texas about two hours before CNN did. I was quite proud of myself as I have no experience in electoral politics and had access to less of the data than the specialists did. Take that, experts!!

I could talk about the potential disaster last night was for the Democrats and the new grounds for optimism for the Republicans, the Clinton campaign’s worrying willingness to keep this as nasty and mean as possible, the fact that McCain’s visit to Bush today means very very little, but….

I want to talk about the CNN coverage. I know this is not exactly new to most people who watch CNN, but I got sick of the being reminded that they had the “best political team on television” every five minutes. All the members of that team were ridiculously partisan, whether they admitted it or not, making the Republican-supporting panellists the most entertaining to watch for most of the evening. This was a new development for me, personally.

Meanwhile Wolf Blitzer spent the entire evening turning to John King every chance he got, who had apparently sent off to Apple for an enormous iPod Touch with a Google Maps application. Wolf seemed to be drooling a bit too close to the screen. He must have been to the Bestbuy website overnight, because today they’ve named their gadget: the multi-touch screen!!

I’m actually refreshed by their utter failure to come up with a flashier title. It’s like they discovered taste by accident.

Now I’m watching the aftermath coverage and feeding myself with the justification that I’m ill, but really, I just can’t kick the election TV habit. Unfortunately, coverage from the day after is kind of crap. Although the more I see of Bush the lame duck president, the more I like him. “I’ll be in Crawford with my feet up!” he claimed loudly in his supposedly folksy manner. It took me a minute to figure out he was talking about life after the next president comes in.

Here are some things that I just want to list as interesting rather than make this WAY too long:

  • What’s the difference between urban (Obama) and working class (Clinton)?
  • Why is Clinton’s campaign team not only mean, but apparently proud of it? Should you really be telling CNN journalists on the record you want to “hit” anyone “hard”?
  • When will Democrats figure out that Republican voters will vote for McCain even if they don’t like him very much rather than vote for Clinton, for Obama, or abstain?
  • Someone tell the idiots that booed the mention of Clinton’s name on live national television as Obama gave his speech in San Antonio that they create a bad impression of the campaign in general, in addition to making themselves look stupid.
  • If Hilary Clinton was a man, with exactly the same policies, would she be getting as many votes? We live in a world where I think it’s clear she’d have a different number, but would it be less or more?

We should just elect Bret Favre and be done with it.

Ok, so a couple of things are happening later today. First off, there’s Champions’ League stuff going on. I’m looking forward to the Milan v Arsenal game quite a lot, despite the first leg, and am ignoring years of experience to dare to dream for a Lyon upset of Manchester United. This is occupying the heart of my day.

In other sports news, Brett Favre has retired. I honestly thought he’d never leave. Why would he? He can do no wrong, really, in Green Bay at least. Perhaps he realised that last season was pretty good, and it was tempting fate one time too many to come back. Favre always throws for tons and tons of yards and does crazy things, it’s just the crazy things often involve throwing interceptions. Sometimes it really is better to quit while you’re ahead. I’ll be interested to see how Green Bay do without him though; all the talk last year was of the potential in a young team, but succeeding Favre is one job I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

And now, for stuff that supposedly affects the way we live outside Sundays in winter: it’s voting time in Austin, Texas. And the rest of Texas, for that matter. It’s a weird feeling to start the day, everyone’s talking about voting, or going to vote, and reminding each other to caucus. Personally I think being able to vote twice is a wonderful thing. It’s like Texas is twice as democratic as most places. Take that, France.

I have a lot of work to do, as always, but I think I’ll sit back and take in some good old fashioned election analysis. It’s not as good in the US as it is at home, but it’s a far sight better than ANYTHING else that’s on the news channels. There is something terribly entertaining about well-educated people essentially stalling for time by making guesses and vague statements until the results come in.

That will be my Tuesday evening. I’m looking forward to wallowing in democracy. I’ll miss this, you know, when Bush is gone and all is right with the world.

What I won’t miss is Democrats proving they’re just as dirty and underhanded as the supposedly evil Republicans. Here’s a gem from local TV accentuating the positive aspects of the candidate’s campaign rather than just sledge incumbent State Representative Dawnna Dukes:


Thankfully, Ms. Dukes has risen above petty squabbling and focused on her own good work rather than simply retaliate:

Um…. well…. I like the evil dog in Homer Simpson movie effect on Thompson. He’s never voted in a Texas Primary EVER!!!!

Ugh. Maybe it will be nice to get back to taking absolutely no responsibility for anything as a society.