Greta

Saving the World

Greta Thunberg, a name one year ago nobody had ever heard of. Today the young Swedish climate activist’s image is everywhere. Here is one of the latest from her facebook page :

School strike week 52.

69031467_894604544240700_8117994793717465088_nPos 47 degrees 17 minutes north and 13 degrees 17 minutes west,
which for non-sailors is in the middle of the Atlantic.

Greta has in just one year become a global phenomenon. I have never in my lifetime seen anything like it. Out of her well researched and deeply held concern for the future of our planet and the inaction of decision makers she decided one Friday in August 2018 to wag school and sit down in front of the Swedish Parliament.

1-Gq7IsTUc7tv8ybRlpmG3kwSince then the sixteen your old looking more like fourteen who has Asperger Syndrome has morphed from the “silent child at the back of the class” to a worldwide celebrity gracing among others the cover of time magazine.

Greta-Thunberg-on-the-cover-of-Time-Magazine
Climate Activism as Therapy

Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction, often high intelligence and with the “pursuit of specific and narrow areas of interest”. In Greta’s case it has lead her to concentrate on climate change probably like no other of her generation. She really knows her stuff. It made her so concerned that she became depressed, developed an eating disorder and stopped speaking for quite some time. Fortunately her parents supported her all the way. In her words “Asperger is not a disease, it’s a gift.”
She reflects on her actions : “Before I felt lonely, both because of Asperger’s Syndrome … I don’t like socialising but also because it felt like I was the only one who cared about the climate and the ecological crisis. No-one I knew cared about this and I felt I was the only one. It makes me fell good that I’m not alone in this fight and it feels like my life has gotten some kind of meaning lately.” (facebook)

I try to imagine what has happened to this “child” in such short time and how it must affect her. Greta goes on dealing with everything calmly with reason, clarity, grace and passion, which put the rest of us to shame. Every piece of footage and writing I have seen shows her enduring the frenzy of media attention to put climate emergency at the centre. Again her Asperger condition must be a blessing.
Obviously this last year was good for her. You can see it. This is not the silent child in the back of the class any-more.

A handout picture shows Greta and her father Svante Thunberg meeting with Boris Herrmann from sailing Team Malizia at the Swedish ambassador's residence in Paris, France, July 22, 2019. Picture taken July 22, 2019. Christian Krug/Team Malizia/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT.

Greta and her father Svante Thunberg meeting with Boris Herrmann from sailing Team Malizia

Critics and Haters

There is the usual cohort of haters from the fossil fuel climate change denier camp desperately clinging on to the do nothing status quo. Greta understands that this hatred comes with the territory and is a sign of the growing success of her campaign. The Greta Effect is now recognised as a “thing”. For instance in Sweden air travel reduced by 10 % because of the Greta Effect. The recent European elections had the surprising success of the Greens across the board attributed to the Greta Effect. At local body elections in my old home town of Hamburg the Greens became the strongest party in four out of seven districts, which had firmly been in social democratic hands forever. The voting age was lowered to sixteen and Greta had been at a huge – Friday for Future – rally in the city earlier in the year. No wonder that the haters see the writing on the wall and double their vitriolic efforts.

However the most annoying “critics” are the patronising nitpickers. For the benefit of the German Spiegel Magazine, which has a few of those the word is “Korinthenkacker”. It means literally someone unable to do a decent dump instead only craps currants.
I mean the people who interview her during a train trip criticising her for eating some vegetarian on board food because it was wrapped in – shock horror – plastic ! I mean the people who are seriously trying to calculate the carbon footprint of her transatlantic trip making it out to be the great PR disaster by including several flights to get the yacht ready and in place, including the construction of this high-tech carbon fibre racing machine, including the travel of all the media to Plymouth to report on her departure. The people who tell us that her Atlantic crossing is not clean because the “Malizzia II” has a a diesel engine, a safety requirement for yachts of her type. Next they will calculate the carbon footprint of her train travel by including the rails made of steel using coal during the manufacturing. In the end these people would really like her to stop breathing because that too produces CO2.

The last thing these nitpickers want to talk about is climate change. In the US a recent study found that the birth of the English prince Archie got more media coverage in a couple of weeks than climate change in a whole year. If it takes another child to take notice of the most critical issue facing us all so be it.

Racing across the Atlantic

The most insightful observations about Greta came from experienced skipper Boris Herrmann. Never before a total novice attempted to cross the Atlantic in a racing yacht. Greta accepted the opportunity/challenge without fear. Herrmann observed it coming from the strength of her conviction that things had to change accepting that for herself leaving her comfort zone. Matter-of-factly she talked about the food and the bucket she would have to use. While her critics would not even need a bucket shitting their pants in the middle of the ocean.

Go Greta ! Have a safe trip !
I am looking forward to your acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Price as it will be like all your speeches to the point and not longer than a few minutes.

Dr. Hans B. Grueber
20 August 2019

 

Posted in Environment | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Virtual World

Pokemon

Walking along the river Elbe during this year’s visit to my old home town of Hamburg I was approached by two men with a video camera. They told me that they were working on an university project and if I would like to answers a couple of questions.
“Could I imagine to live in a virtual world ?” and “Would I like it ?”

I immediately thought of and told them the story Yuval Noah Harari told about his home town of Jerusalem :
Recently I went with my nephew to hunt Pokémon. We were walking down the street and a bunch of kids approached us. They were also hunting Pokemon. My nephew and these children got into a bit of a fight because they were trying to capture the same invisible creatures. It seemed strange to me. But these Pokémon were very real to the children. And then it hit me: This is just like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he says in the interview.
“I look at the stones of buildings in Jerusalem and I just see stones. But Christians, Jews, and Muslims who look at the same stones see a holy city. It’s their imagination, but they are willing to kill for it. That’s virtual reality, too,” he adds.

I was the first person they had approached and my interviewers were taken aback with what hit them and stopped recording after ten minutes. The questions had got me talking and I have not stopped thinking about how much we actually live in a virtual world.

Religion

A long time ago visiting a religious festival in the hills of Sardinia and later the Vatican my eyes were opened what religion was all about. (see my previous blog “Thank you Brian Tamaki”)
However I am still fascinated that so many people feel the need for some imaginary friend up somewhere to tell them what to do. While writing this I came across more from Harari :
“Well, the thing about humans is that we’re very good at inventing fictional stories, and believing in these stories, and then we can’t tell the difference between the imagination and reality. . . . In the real world there are no angels or demons, no gods, no sin, but you look at the world through the bible and suddenly the entire world is filled with angels and demons, and this is a sin, and you shouldn’t do this or do that, and it’s all in the imagination.”

Sadly the imaginary world of religion in the 21st century still leads us into war, terror and mayhem. One would have hoped that we left the dark ages well and truly behind and  enlightenment would have overcome (our need for) religion. At the extremes there seems to be no progress. The deeds in the name of or at least associated with religion like attacks on mosques, churches and synagogues speak for themselves.

In my own experience talking to many people I find good and bad.

For instance at my local weekend market is one man of the more aggressive Christian fringe who not surprisingly also spreads various conspiracy theories. I normally have a friendly banter but one time shortly after the Christchurch attack I had to intervene when he had aggressive words with a stall holder of probably Indian or Pakistani origin wearing a headscarf. Other market goers were also upset.

On the other hand I regularly talk to a nice Jehovah’s Witnesses couple trying to convince them of the errors of their ways. These discussions are friendly and respectful. I see how sincerely they hold to their believes and that they do no harm. After one of those discussions I came up with a possible answer :

5065578
Back to the original questions.
Yes, I cannot only imagine to live in a virtual world but unfortunately we all live in a religious virtual world mostly to our detriment.
No, I don’t like it. We all would be better of with no religion at all. The world is full of enough problems to cause conflicts. We don’t need religion to act ethically and help and support each other. We are fast approaching the existential crisis of climate change. The last thing we need is bickering over some ancient pieces of historical fiction like the Torah, Bible and Quran.

Dr. Hans B. Grueber

 

Posted in Society | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Easter message from an old dreamer : Imagine . . .

Imagine

Imagine you were wagging school on 15 March in Christchurch to take part in the world wide protest against climate change. You are marching and having a good time in the sun and expect that you as part of a world event starting in New Zealand will make the six o’clock news. Imagine that some person told you that this would not be the case. Instead an hour or so later in your peaceful town a lone white supremacist gunman would massacre 50 Muslims.

You would have said or at least thought that the person was having a bad dream. However that nightmare is exactly what happened.

Imagine

By the night of that Friday you had learned all about the horror of Muslim men, women and children praying in two mosque being brutally killed. Some been finished off while already laying wounded on the ground by a cold blooded shooter. As a true terrorist he was out to inflict maximum brutality and bloodshed in order to strike fear / terror into our hearts. You also had learned that this terror was not only aimed at Muslims in Christchurch or New Zealand but everyone around the world. The gunman had live-streamed the murders on Facebook for all to see, download and spread.

Imagine if at that time someone told you that within a week the image of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern comforting a Muslim woman would be projected onto the tallest building in the world in Dubai and their Sheik would thank our Prime minister and New Zealand in the name of 1.5 billions Muslims in the world.

D2RnI17WsAABbFo

You would have said that the person was dreaming. However that dream is exactly what happened.

Imagine

The story of white supremacist hatred, bloodshed and terror had been overtaken by the story of love, grief, empathy, comfort and support. The overflowing flower tributes and messages not only in Christchurch filled our screens. The story of selfless by-standers and first responders doing their up-most to save the lives of the wounded led the news. And most of all Jacinda Ardern, our Prime Minister was leading the nation in making the Muslim Community part of New Zealand as never before : They are Us !

54256889_1545604638904933_7483627999544213504_oWomen wearing head-scarfs in solidarity with our Muslim brethren. An Imam leading a prayer in Parliament. A Muslim call to prayer broadcast nation wide. Millions of dollars donated  within days to support the victims. Government including the usually hostile Department of Immigration working overtime to help the survivors. The world watching and praising Jacinda for her leadership in giving comfort and taking action to ban the weapons, that had taken so many lives within minutes. Leadership was not offering “thoughts and prayers” – the usual US response to mass shootings – but action on gun laws.
There was even talk of the Nobel Peace Price. However the nominations for this year had already closed.

Imagine if somebody told you after all this outpouring of love that within days anti-Islamic hatred would raise its ugly head in New Zealand with a vengeance. That the letter writers, the talk-back callers, the self appointed bishop and even patronising so called “feminists” would all be showing their prejudiced ignorant Islamophobia. That social media would be so full of hate that one had to be fearful for Jacinda now having a target on her back.

You would have said to the person that he was having a bad dream. However that is exactly what happened.

The core of this fear and hatred is racism and xenophobia. It is fanned and exploited by populist right-wing demagogues all over the world beginning with Trump in the US, Brexit in Britain and many other countries around Europe and the world not to forget Australia with its long racist history now manifest in its inhumane refugee policies. It does not feel like a coincidence that the white supremacist murderer is Australian.
In this instance the hatred manifested itself in the form of Islamophobia. The attack and the backlash against empathy and love shown to the victims is directed against  the religion of Islam. The victims from many different countries and different colour had one thing in common their Muslim faith. And the perpetrators and haters have the Christian religion in common. This hatred is especially insane as in the aftermath of the massacre the Muslim community in Christchurch and around the world  have shown so much love and forgiveness.

The thing which enraged the haters most besides ignorant patronising objections to wearing a headscarf was the (Muslim) prayer. Could it be that there would be less hate if there would be less prayers ? If there would be less religion ? Even better if there would be no religion at all ?

May be it takes a much bigger dream and imagination to make the world a better place. May be it takes late but immortal John Lennon‘s dream :

maxresdefaultImagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

by Dr Hans B. Grueber

 

Posted in Society | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

At war with China ?

What do I know about China

I remember an excellent BBC documentary series about China’s and its rich history and culture over thousands of years with the recent period of communism being only a very thin veneer. I still have Mao’s little red book from 1966 in my library not that I ever really read it. I read the 2006 Jung Chang/Jon Halliday biography of Mao and learned about the revolution, civil war, the “long march”, great famine and horror of the cultural revolution. And of course who does not love the Dalai Lama and has taken the side of Tibet.
Over recent months I have been learning and thinking more about China. From a book about German Imperialism, which luckily lasted only for thirty years, I learned how imperial Germany conducted itself as a colonial power in China. I knew about Kaiser Wilhelm’s infamous “Hun” speech to the troops embarking on the expedition to the German enclave of Tsingtao not to take prisoners. But I did know little about that bloody even bloodthirsty campaign of America, Germany, Britain and other European powers to put down the so called “Boxer Rebellion” and ransack Beijing.

Fig-10-US-Marines-No-3-1944-340x480

This was only one of a long list of humiliations China suffered at the hand of Western powers at a time when it was weak. We are most familiar with the earlier Opium Wars when Britain forced China to open its ports to the import of British (Indian) opium.

How do Chinese feel today ?

My local Cafe is run by a Chinese immigrant with whom I often talk about things Chinese. I remember well his reply when I confronted him with Mao’s personal failings and cruel policies, which costs tens of millions of his countrymen their lives when he pursued the development of nuclear weapons at all costs. He would always be revered as “Chairman Mao” who not only defeated the Japanese occupiers  but had made China strong to never again be humiliated by any foreign power. After centuries of weakness that must be feeling really good.

China is a military/nuclear super-power. It recently achieved a first in space landing a craft on the far side of the moon. It most of all is the biggest economic power behind only the USA. My friend pointed out that unlike for instance Russia’s and America’s economies still mainly based on commodities from sunset industries like coal & steel, oil & gas China has a plan for the future based on high tech, Artificial Intelligence (AI), modern infrastructure with bullet trains, giant dams and bridges. Underpinning all is an education system producing a million engineers every year.
As a result hundreds of millions of of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. A growing middle class now can buy New Zealand products and travel to our country bringing in the major chunk of our export earnings.

All this I know without being an expert in Chinese affairs. One would expect the people in Wellington responsible for our China policies to know at least as much.

New Zealand – Chinese Relationship

Historically New Zealand and China never had a reason to have an angry word with each other. It should not come as a surprise that New Zealand scored the first bilateral trade agreement. After all we tend to portray ourselves internationally as an independent nation not beholden to any foreign puppet master.We gave the world a shining example with our nuclear free policy.
Now it appears that this image like the “clean green New Zealand” is shattered. We are found out as a “Five Eyes” spy-network partner obediently following Trump/US orders. We are banning the Chinese tech giant Huawei from building the next generation 5G network. The “concerns” of our GCSB spy-masters about “security” are such laughable bullshit that it would take another blog to rebut. Concerns about industrial espionage are the peak of hypocrisy as the “Five Eyes” have for decades done just that not just to our cold war enemies but our friends and allies for instance in NATO. The audacity to raise such “concerns” with a straight face beggars belief.
To ban any Chinese company from doing business in New Zealand on such flimsy pretences breaches our bilateral trade agreement we are so proud of. This might have been just the final straw.
We started in cold war style by naming China as a potential enemy in a defence paper citing the South China Sea. Then our foreign minister in a speech in Washington asked Trump America for help to push back Chinese influence in the South Pacific. Now we idly stand by when our “Five Eyes” partner and British defence secretary Gavin Williamson talks about Britain strengthening her global presence and enhance her lethality and sending the next generation Aircraft carrier, the Queen Elisabeth, into the South China Sea. Can’t we see how China must feel about that.

However the elephant in the room remains Huawei.

I watched the prime minister last night on Q+A trying to distance her government from its own spy agency by emphasising it’s independence and a new law it operates under. This is plainly absurd to seriously suggest that government can openly outsource policy decisions of this magnitude to the “Deep State”, the spooks suspected to wield the real power anyway. Our GCSB as all spy agencies is of course by nature totally unaccountable to the public. Zero transparency. They always claim to know “secret” things we don’t and will never know because as the secrecy argument goes “If we tell  you we have to kill you“.

It might be the first sign of back-paddling to reverse the Huawei decision when the prime minister says that New Zealand will act independently and she trusts the “process”, which allegedly is underway. Or she is totally naive. The point of “Five Eyes” is that spy agencies do not act independently. There is no process one can trust if it is shrouded in secrecy.

It does not wash with Huawei and/or China and it should not wash with the public of a Western democracy.
New Zealand cannot afford to take sides in the trade war between the USA and China because that is all it is.

Dr. Hans B. Grueber
Posted in Economics, politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

OMG : What did I do ?

This week I celebrate the second birthday of my first born grandson. This is the reason to wonder what world he will live in if he reaches my age. This is for you OMG.

The end of the century

Near the end of the century you will be my age if you are lucky. You might not consider yourself lucky in the world you will be living in.

172925_600The picture looks grim. And many – especially the ones in power to do something about it – do not (want to) believe it. Or so they say. It could very well be that they know exactly what is going to happen but just don’t care. That they despite their pretences to love their children and grandchildren just care about themselves and their lives in luxury and over-consumption and give a damn about future generations. A 15 year old Swedish school girl Greta Thunberg did not pull her punches at the recent Climate Conference in Katowice Poland.

The Science

Looking into the future is not a precise science. There are to many known and unknown variables. We cannot even predict the future weather if it is going to rain on the fifth day of the boxing day cricket test, which might be only ten days away. Many mistake the weather with climate and conclude that if we can’t predict the one we cannot predict the other. That however could not be further from the truth. Climate is the big picture of the whole planet over decades and centuries. Here the data show patterns and trends. And these don’t look good. For instance the fact that in the last 18 years we had the 17 hottest years on record. The jury is in. It is man made by our fossil fuel consumption.
Another trend is very worrying. Every new international climate report is more alarming than the last as new data come in. The news on climate change get worse not better. The outlook gets more catastrophic by each report. This is not hyperbole. Most serious scientists know that there will be no miracle technical breakthrough. The idea that we are so clever that we will invent some technical solution just in time to save us is just an excuse not to act now to prevent the climate catastrophe.
Nor does it look like that there will be a miracle enlightenment of the elites to turn this hopeless situation around. The latest climate conference in Katowice ended after overtime to just keep the Paris agreement alive without any real progress. The point of no-return might have already passed anyway.
The consequences of global warming, which instead of slowing is accelerating, are dire. First of all we will not be able to hold it at 2 degrees. By the current trends at the end of your lifetime it might be closer to 4 degrees. This will lead to sea level rises that will displace hundreds of millions of people in low laying coastal areas including many of the world’s largest cities.
Large areas of land in all continents, which today are still arable and feed hundreds of millions of people will not be able to sustain life. The oceans as a major food source will be affected .
By the current rate the process will be accelerated by the disappearance of tropical rainforests like the Amazon and in Indonesia. They served us as carbon sinks and provided us with oxygen. With them we will also loose biodiversity on a catastrophic scale.
This is what scientist of the various fields are telling us today. However that will not be the worst part of it.

War and Civil Unrest

Over the last few years we are witnessing scary developments in the countries of the North triggered by a wave of immigration from the South. Right-wing anti-immigrant parties gaining power and are destabilising formerly solid democratic countries. That many of the newcomers pray to a different god adds to the xenophobia. The people we as their rulers looked down at are now moving in next door. But this is nothing compared to what is coming in 20 or 50 years time. What now seems to be a wave will be regarded as a trickle compared with the tsunami of desperate victims of our reckless destruction of the planet being forced to move north. As history has shown no wall will stop them.

The worst consequence of climate change will be war and civil unrest over dwindling resources and survival space. Civil society as we know it will not survive.

Is there no Hope ?

I am afraid it does not look good. Sir David Attenborough, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Pope Francis among all the scientists have just sounded the warning bells again without effecting any change of direction.

LONDON - MAY 02: Sir David Attenborough launches National Moth Recording Scheme at London Zoo on May 2, 2007 in London. The scheme is run by Butterfly Conversation, funded by a grant of 806,000GBP from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thousands of volunteers will be enlisted over the next four years to help record the moth population in the Britain. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
The powerful that could stop us from going over the cliff are distracted. The rich are busy getting richer. The politicians are busy to get re-elected in short term cycles. The media mostly put their heads in the sand chasing trivial stories instead. A revolution of civil society is not in sight as all demand that their way of life i.e. over-consumption and destruction of the planet must be maintained. The US will never give up the “American Way of Life.”

Man has evolved to survive sudden danger. We instantly swing into full action mode when threatened by the sound of a rattle snake or an intruder breaking a window. Our lizard brain has however not evolved to react the same way when the threat is without precedent and relatively distant. We are like possums in the headlight to slow to move.
That is however no excuse as we are the first generation in history, which has all the information to confidently look into the future and act upon it.

What did I do ?

After WWII in Germany my generation asked our fathers the question : What did you do during the 3. Reich when the Nazis send millions of Jews to their death ?
In future I will face the question : What did you do when in your time the course was set for genocidal global destruction ?

Sorry, I have no excuse for my generation.

For myself I can say that I always have been an activist and on the right side of history including on the issue of climate change. Still I must admit that my greatest contribution might just have been that I never was a wasteful consumer.

Will that be enough to answer your question : What did I do ?

By Dr Hans B. Grueber

PS : Happy Birthday OMG.

Posted in Environment, politics, Society | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

American Democracy on Notice

US mid-term elections

In a few weeks American voters have a last chance to assert that they still care about their republic and democracy. The signs are not good.

The sad story of the American republic, political system, democracy being broken has at this point of time three parts to it. First there is President Trump rather a symptom like a exploding pimple on a festering smelly boil called the Republican Party, which in turn is part of widely infected cancerous rotten body called the American people/voters. One would not exist without the other.
The events of the last couple of years could be described in other terms. A deeply corrupt neo-liberal gang (Republicans) have found the populist demagogic tool (Trump) to seduce a big enough uneducated, dumb, angry minority – that is all you need in the undemocratic US political system – to vote against their own interests. Driven by spite and hatred against what they perceive as the intellectual liberal “elite”.

A columnist for Daily Kos GrafZeppelin127 last Friday describes it like this :
It’s no secret that selfishness, cruelty, resentment, hate and fear are the reasons why millions of Americans nominated and elected a self-evidently unqualified, vulgar, ignorant, demented racist gangster to be the President of the United States. Not because they “liked” his “policies” (he never really had any), not because they thought he was objectively qualified for the job (viz., had any knowledge, understanding and/or experience in government, law, public policy, military affairs or international diplomacy), not even because they necessarily thought he’d be good at the job, but because he spoke to their selfishness, cruelty, resentment, hate and fear; told them it was OK to be selfish, cruel, resentful, hateful and fearful and that they were right to be selfish, cruel, resentful of whoever they resent, hateful of whoever they hate, and fearful of whoever and whatever they fear.
What these people really want is to live in a world where they don’t have to see, hear, experience or be confronted with people and things that make them uncomfortable, that bother them, or that piss them off. Not only that, but voting Republican and electing Republicans doesn’t make those things go away and doesn’t shield them from any of it. Sure, it makes those obnoxious and annoying liberals feel shitty, which for some is the only real goal anyway.”

38600592_1097542147060934_5319628776361951232_n                              Trump rally: I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat

Democracy like Market

Democracy is like Adam Smith’  legendary  market. For both to work you need informed rational people to make rational decisions in their best interest. As soon as people act/vote irrationally and destructively the theory does not work any-more. Neo-liberalism and our so called “democracy ” go down hand in hand.
The uninformed irrational participants allow the “market” make only the top 1% richer. The rest put up with holding down two or more jobs to still rely on social welfare and food banks.
The uninformed voters become content with voting every two to four years without any real effect due to Gerrymandering, voter suppression and ruthless lies and manipulation. The USA being the only so called western democracy to actively prevent citizens from voting.

248211_537390566385983_864787176105473951_n

Lies and the dumb gullible Voter

Part of the right wing neo-liberal agenda has always been to keep people as uneducated and uninformed as possible. Otherwise they might wake up and actually consider what is good for them.
The US have been running down the public education system for the last three and more (neo-liberal) decades. People are so dump shouting down “Obama Care” at Trump rallies because they “still have the Affordable Care Act” not realising that they are one and the same.
One can have sympathy for people who spend all their waking hours trying to make ends meet. They don’t have the time nor energy to engage in politics. However the people who have time for Trump rallies are just to lazy to inform themselves about the most basic political facts. And that is how the Republicans like it.
It makes the gullible masses more susceptible to blatant bare faced lies. One example from two years ago stuck in my mind. Facebook spread a link to a legitimate looking ‘news’ website with the headline “Pope endorses Trump”. Any only rudimentary interested and informed person would not even click on a link that was obvious bullshit. Yet the people behind it put it out there expecting/knowing that people would be swayed by it.

And before we in New Zealand get to smug about our superior education and electoral system I remind you of Steven Joyce’s classic dirty politics barefaced lie. The “hole in the budget” lie knocked the momentum out of Labour’s campaign just weeks from the election. There was/is no effective defence against a lie repeated again and again. It is to late for voters to be woken up a year later.

43504098_10156141693774285_1336372283807105024_o
Can US democracy survive ?

The White House, Congress and with the disgraceful appointment of Brett Kavanaugh the Supreme Court are now under control of what would be in any other liberal democracy regarded as criminals. The checks and balances the constitution tried to put in place are failing. The founding fathers did not envisage a criminal gang taking control of all three branches of government.
The only ones to be able to reign in the abuse of power and restore a semblance of legitimacy, legality, basic decency and sanity are the American voters. After the events of the last two years there is no excuse any-more that they don’t know what they are doing. If they fail to punish the criminals and rather reward them at the ballot box the US Republic is doomed.
Let’s make no mistakes we, the rest of the world, will be affected.

American Democracy is on notice.

Dr Hans B. Grueber
17/10/18

 

 

 

 

Posted in politics, Society | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Free Speech and its Abuse

The raging Free Speech debate

Over the last few weeks New Zealand got obsessed with the issue of “Free Speech”. It was triggered by some obnoxious Canadian alt-right racists. Nobody outside the far-right scene had ever heard of them before. It is bizarre how much exposure they got with their business model of provocation and controversy (just watch recent YouTube clip from Australia). It worked like a charm.

Of course they need opponents the louder the better. These were mostly supplied by the anti-racist anti-fascist “Left”. To fuel the controversy there are right-wing supporters styling themselves as the defenders of Free Speech plus the media.

SCCZEN_A_130818BODYCARTOON_master                                                      Guy Body’s view   NZ Herald 13.8.2018

The debate should have been about the acceptability of deliberately hateful and hurtful speech against indigenous people and racial and religious minorities. Instead it was skillfully turned into a debate over the sacred Principle of “Free Speech”.
None put the case more pointedly than Voltaire when he said: “I wholly disapprove of what you say—and will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Who would dare to question that ? The debate got very heated even between friends as I can personally attest to.

As to be expected the “Right” was almost united in support of these racist provocateurs.  As also to be expected the “Left” was fighting among themselves. The one prominent left-wing member of the instantly formed Free Speech Coalition lamented in his blog “How The New Zealand Left Transformed Southern And Molyneux (the Canadian white supremacists) From Unknown Rightists Into Free Speech Heroes.” To late. He was labelled an “useful idiot” in another left-wing publication for joining the Coalition as the “representative” of the principled Left.

I must admit that initially I was ambivalent on the speaking rights of these Canadian shit stirrers. Who could disagree with the principle of free speech not only for those we agree with.
But then I listened to one right-wing  speaker for the Free Speech Coalition on the radio who showed his colours by not only defending their right to speak but defending some of their positions. This same male white upper middle class Christian ex-MP New Zealand lawyer in a TV debate had to listen to an articulate brown Muslim New Zealand woman describing the insults and hurt inflicted upon them by such speech, which had to stop. His response left me gob-smacked. He felt “threatened” by her (views). That tipped the balance. What I had suspected from the outset hearing the names of the main protagonists of that coalition was confirmed. I as a supporter of the principle would not want to be associated with that group in any way. They smell to much like their white supremacists Canadians brethren.

Free Speech vs Hate Speech

The real issue we should be focusing on is Hate Speech. The Free Speech purists have a big problem with its definition. Let me try to help without quoting New Zealand statutes.

USA

Free Speech  (first amendment 1791 : Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . .) is the holy cow of the US constitution. Many Americans believe that not some old wise men of the late 18th century have written their constitution but is was given to them by God and is therefore sacrosanct. The wise men would turn in their graves if they knew what the Supreme Court would make out of Free Speech like the right of corporations to spend unlimited amount on politicians and buying elections. So anything goes and nothing will change.

Germany

Germany is the only country, which had to and did learn from her dark history. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust. The German judiciary doesn’t muck around. Recently the German Constitutional Court (equivalent to the US Supreme Court) decided that Holocaust denying was not covered by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression. The 89 year old woman is serving a two year prison term for repeatedly saying “that the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi occupied Poland was just a work camp”. The court found that knowingly spreading proven falsehoods “cannot contribute to forming opinions and as such is not covered by the freedom of opinion”. It found that denying the Nazi genocide constitutes “disturbing the public peace”.

39012675_10215231951290892_7690400330902667264_n
Is the 20th century European history something not only the Germans could learn from ?

New Zealand

People inciting racial, religious, xenophobic prejudice and hatred with the intend to destroy our liberal multicultural democratic society do not deserve the free speech protection liberal democratic societies are built on. They might not be put in jail as a matter of course but they definitely must not be given a venue and stage owned by the citizens of New Zealand in this case an Auckland Council owned theatre.

Former Australian Human Rights Commissioner Prof Gillian Triggs told of a successful prosecution under the Australian Racial Discrimination Act of a notorious journalist over his articles about “Fair Skinned Aboriginal Australians”. The court found that the journalist had no freedom of expression defence because he had his facts wrong and was acting in “bad faith”.

In summery : If you deliberately hurt people, incite prejudice and hatred based on lies you are acting in bad faith and don’t deserve the protection of the law. That is Abuse of Free Speech.

Dr Hans B. Grueber

PS :  A friend familiar with the fact that in some jurisdictions Holocaust denying is criminal offence asked me an impossible but nevertheless interesting question :
Imagine 20 years ago when the evidence had become undeniable Climate Change denying would have been made a crime. What would the world look like now ? Would we all use public transport or drive electric cars ? Would we have preserved the rainforest ? Less drought in Australia ? Less wildfires all over the world ? Less wild weather events and floods ? No climate refugees from Africa perishing in the Mediterranean Sea ?
Just imagine !

 

 

Posted in politics, Society | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will the Arms Industry allow it ?

Perception is everything

Has the Trump / Kim summit in Singapore changed anything ? Yes and No.

Trump is still and even more so the embarrassing crazy buffoon and as such rich fodder for US comedians. They just have to cut and paste together his public statements and the audiences are cracking up. And for good reason. In any autocratic regime humour has always been the best medicine.

trump-kim-summit-nk-tv-02-ht-jc-180614_hpMain_4x3_992And Kim is still the murderous ruthless leader of a regime with an unparalleled record of almost genocidal Human Rights violations.

Their armies are still facing each other across the 38th Parallel. As before it would take only moments to put the fingers on the trigger.

On the other hand everything has changed.   –   The perception has changed.

The murderous dictator emerged re-branded as a very smart, strong, trustworthy leader. “When he speaks his people sit up and listen.” We even adopt his language calling our long-long standing annual joint military exercises together with our South Korean allies “provocative” !

On the other side the “dotard” Trump morphed into “President Donald J. Trump”. Even “Supreme Leader”. Eric Talmadge describes the carefully crafted total North Korean makeover of Trump.

The physical world is still the same but the perception has been turned upside down. Or is it the other way round and we for the first time are told what the situation really is and always has been.
Western pundits are still sceptical. But they reluctantly will have to accept that Trump and Kim instead of changing the physical reality in a verifiable way have agreed to change the narrative. This was so much easier and as effective as perception becomes/is reality. We might not realise it but a switch has been thrown in our minds.

Trump declared on his return that North Korea no longer posed a threat to the US and I absolutely believe him. Why would Kim threaten the US – of course they were always in the defensive – after Trump guaranteed his safety and ordered the end of the US aggressive position ever since a truce in 1953.

Nobel Peace Price Winner Trump

Fast forward. May be two years from now when Trump for reasons of his re-election will need another foreign policy coup.
He and his friend Putin he always has shown admiration for decide to have a big media event / summit meeting. It would be hosted for logistical and historical reason in Reykjavik.
There Trump to the surprise of everyone would recognise the Crimea as legitimate part of Russia. That would actually be historically and according to international law correct. The people of the Crimea have in a referendum overwhelmingly (well over 60%) decided to again join Russia.
Then as parting gift Trump would declare an end to all “provocative” joint exercises on the Russian border. That said he would declare to the American public that Russia did not (any longer) pose a threat to the US. And again I would absolutely believe him.
Russia unlike Communism has never been aggressive towards the West or specifically the USA. They after all sold them Alaska. After the end of Communism it was the West not Russia that acted aggressively. Against the promises NATO expanded right to the Russian border and the next to join was going to be the Ukraine.

Again the summit would just change the perception and turn Russia from the enemy to a friend. That is what Russia had hoped for all along when they in the 1990s wholeheartedly embraced neo-liberal capitalism.

The two of them should have no difficulty as history would be on their side. The Nobel Peace Price shared by Putin and Trump would be a certainty. I would be all for it regardless of my utter distaste of Trump if not both of them.

Future or Fiction

Why is it that I suspect that this peaceful future might just turn out to be fiction ? Was it not Trump who said during his election campaign that he wanted to make friends with Russia. That it would be better to be friends than enemies as with every other country. And here exactly lies the rub.

He was pilloried by Republicans and Democrats alike for the only sensible thing he ever uttered. Being seen as “soft” on Russia is the worst political crime you can commit in Washington and other Western capitals for that matter. It challenges the foundations of over seventy years of US imperial policy. We have been raised on the Western anti-communist propaganda that Capitalism was good and could do no wrong and justified all means. Communism was evil and had to be fought and destroyed at all costs. Many wars and proxy wars have been fought over which we today can only shake our heads. After Korea think of Vietnam or the continuing economic war against Cuba.
After Communism in the former Soviet Union disappeared the propaganda was switched to anti-Russian. This despite the fact that Russia in all her history never threatened but instead was numerous times invaded by the West. Russia ended the Soviet time military alliance the Warsaw Pact and let non-Russian Soviet republics become independent. All the while NATO became ever more expansionist and aggressive.

The reason for this continuation of the “cold” war after it actually ended is easy to find. There is money to be made in war, heaps of money. The Western most of all US arms industry which underpins the capitalist economy will not let go of it. Swords will not be turned into ploughshares.

11011632_10152957599211680_7027628487775666529_nA friend and political correspondent from the North made an interesting comment when we discussed the outbreak of peace after Singapore. He said that Trump having been under constant attack from the opposition and civil society now had to watch his back. Now he would risk been taken down by his own warmongering side.

Trump pulled off peace on the Korean peninsula. He should pull it off in Europe. The only question is :

Will the Arms Industry allow it ?

by Dr Hans B. Grueber

 

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Bizarre

Don’t get me wrong. The Singapore summit between Trump and Kim was a very good thing. You only have to look back over the last year. North Korea conducted nuclear and intercontinental missile tests. The US considered pre-emptive military strikes. Both engaged in increasingly belligerent talk up to comparing the size of their nuclear buttons. Now the two seem to be the best of pals. If that is not a great deal better then what we had before then what is.

All Show no Substance

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock (9710094b) Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un. U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore Trump Kim Summit, Singapore, Singapore - 12 Jun 2018

But then you read the full very brief text the two have signed. There is nothing new but the commitment to return the remains of POW/MIA (prisoners of war/missing in action). In other words the whole show was just that.
True to his history and style as a reality TV star Trump was just playing to his grass-roots supporters. His propaganda department having it’s eyes firmly fixed on ratings. His daughter in law and chief advisor to his re-election committee Lara Trump send an invite to a “Trump writing history” victory party and re-election campaign event in the battleground state of Minnesota already the day before the meeting. Of course Trump told us beforehand that he would suss out Kim Jong Un within the first minute by “my touch my feel”. If the writers of a TV series like The West Wing  would write that stuff they would be called crazy. But that’s the world we live in.
The real dark side is that the USA and the world are run by a criminal. As New York ex mayor and real self-made billionaire Michael Bloomberg famously said about Donald J. Trump : “I am a New Yorker. And I know a con when I see one.”
Sadly the uninformed Trump supporters of Minnesota who “love Trump for his cruelty towards racial  minorities and the way he sticks his thump in the eyes of ‘elites’ (Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman)” will blindly lap it up and shout “make America great again”. Serious historians and political commentators in the media will again be drowned out by the cries of “fake media”. All exactly according to Trump’s song book. “Why do I constantly attack, malign and insult the media? So nobody will believe them when they write anything negative about me”.

Obviously Kim played Trump like a fiddle. He knew his vanity and desperate desire to appear as a Statesman and deal maker on the world stage. The Trump sales pitch after the event gets even more crazy. The best round-up so far was given by Stephen Colbert.

But will this make the world a better place long term? To get closer to answering this pivotal question we have to look at the wider picture of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives.

How Bizarre

Two images taken within days of each other tell the story. First the G7 meeting in Toronto.

B30CF634-BCA8-452B-A920-E1B56A66AA73

This picture is worth more than a thousand words. For you who haven’t seen it before it does not depict a petulant toddler in the naughty corner. It shows the US President and so called “leader of the free world” surrounded by the America’s longest and closest friends and allies after he declared (trade) war against them.

The next one shows the “great leaders” of the USA and North Korea that were for over 65 years mortal enemies.

dpatopbilder - 12.06.2018, Singapur: Donald Trump (r), US-Präsident, und Kim Jong Un, Machthaber von Nordkorea, begrüßen sich zu Beginn ihres Treffens auf der Insel Sentosa. Foto: Evan Vucci/AP/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The leader of the free world gives the thumbs up to the brutal murderous dictator of a tiny country which suppresses it’s starving population. But it literally bombed the US president to the negotiation table. Trump in a sit-down interview with George Stephanopoulos asked if he trusted Kim replied that the North Korean people “loved” their leader. The same leader he called a few months ago “little rocket man”.

The two images are combined in Rod Emmerson’s cartoon in the NZ Herald.

SCCZEN_130618NZHcartoonRE_master
No wonder that all observers of the events of the last few days are scratching their heads.

To top it all off Trump gave Kim a parting gift that wasn’t even in the agreement but North Korea long wanted. He cancelled the joint military exercises with South Korea the annual war games aimed at the North. He even adopted the North Korean language calling them “provocative”.

Is the world a safer place ?

Undoubtedly as said at the outset talking is better that tweeting insults. Shaking hands is better that shooting and firing missiles.
The great irony many of Trump’s critics do not seem to see is the possibility that out of the crazy acts of a crazy person something positive might emerge. Like two negatives making a positive.
Trump is destroying the old world order, which might actually be a good thing. Globalisation despite all the mantra of the tiny minority which benefited has not delivered the promised land of milk and honey.
After the collapse of communism the cold war, which was sold to us as essentially a war of two ideologies Capitalism vs Communism has not ended. May be Trump achieves what others have not even tried. Bringing Russia into the fold as the Russians expected after they embraced neo-liberal doctrine wholeheartedly in the 1990s. May be he takes the lead to acknowledge that the Crimean people have spoken to be again part of Russia. It has been for hundreds of years bar the time when within the Soviet Union it was gifted to the Ukraine without the people being asked. This would take away an excuse for ongoing Western aggression and vilification of Russia.

However will the arms industry allow it ?

The answer to the question if the world will be a better Place in the long run is a definite may be.

The madness of war games has stopped on the Korean peninsula. In the meantime despite Trump’s sensible words towards Russia in Toronto American and NATO tanks are rolling towards the Russian border in the Baltics for 30,000 men joint exercises.

How Bizarre

by Dr Hans B. Grueber
Posted in politics | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why waste time discovering the truth ?

The West (USA) wants War

Or is it just the arms industry ? Or are Donald and Trump and Theresa May engaging in threatening war talk just to distract from their domestic problems ?
American demand of it’s NATO allies has been for many years to increase their defence spending to 2% of their respective GDPs. The US don’t have any problem with that as they already outspend the rest of the world. At present 647 Billion US dollars is more then four times as much as nearest rival China and almost 14 times as much as Russia. They spend more than the next 12 biggest defence spenders combined (see Defense spending by Country). The US arms industry is the main beneficiary of all these billions. Imagine their windfall if NATO is pressed to follow suit and more then double their spending.
To justify this to the taxpayers you need an enemy and a threat.

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall the West became the aggressor against Russia. First they extended NATO up to the Russian border against promises given to President Gorbachev when he agreed to the re-unification of Germany. Then the CIA financed and staged a coup against the democratically elected pro-Russian president of the Ukraine. This led to civil war in which the West supported the West Ukraine regime with fascist pedigree  and Russia supported her brethren in the East. Result so far was Russia accepted Crimea back into her fold after a decisive referendum. Still Western propaganda calls it an annexation.

Right now central European NATO countries are planning to upgrade their roads and bridges to be able to move tanks and heavy equipment faster towards the East. They haven’t given it the code-name “Unternehmen Barbarossa” yet – Hitler’s code-name for the invasion of the Soviet Union. It is not hard to imagine how the Russians must feel about it.

A letter to the editor of the NZ Herald perfectly sums up the absurdity of the situation :

Scan
War with Russia is however not likely. Thankfully Russia has enough nukes to make a war un-winnable.
That danger lies with Israel threatening war against Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu : “We want war with Iran rather sooner than later”. This however is nothing new. Israel’s existence and expansion is based on terror, ethnic cleansing and war. Israel is always getting away with it as it has the backing of the USA which has used its veto power in the UN Security Council to protect Israel more than all other permanent members on any other issue.

The new really frightening dimension is Donald Trump and the religious fundamentalist lunatics he has surrounded himself with. These are the people who want war in the Middle East. They want Armageddon to give them – the Righteous – one-way tickets to heaven. The Christian equivalent of the Taliban. The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem is only the first step. The NZ Herald on 16.May 18 had a very scary article about these

“HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE”.

GSV2UIZFRBCK3GV7HJ7FYMR4AU
Why waste time discovering the truth

Countries especially democracies which want to go to war have a problem. They have to get the people on board. This is nothing new. That is what propaganda is for. Propaganda is by definition the opposite of the Truth. We have to be fed lies the bigger the better. The majority of people are too ignorant or disinterested in (global) politics that they are not able or willing to recognise the difference.
There is a history of lies which made us go to war. Just two recent examples are the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which led to the full-scale Vietnam war and the Weapons of Mass Destruction lie, which led the US and Britain into the Iraq war. Both ended as military and political disasters which cost millions of lives.

However the internet and social media lifted the propaganda game to a whole new level. Now it is so easy to spread a lie to millions of people instead of just the guy next to you at the pub. Media as the gatekeepers with journalists as fact checkers are circumvented so lies become unchecked and unchallenged. When the lie is out there the media fail in their duty to discover the truth.

I recently picked up a David Baldacci novel titled “the whole truth“. I keep going back to the front to check if it is really copyrighted 2008 . The first page just says :

Why waste time discovering the truth
when you can so easily create it  ?

Spoiler alert : A video clip is produced allegedly showing a (non existing) Russian atrocity. Anonymous distribution via the internet spreading like wild fire. Mainstream Media repeating the accusation without any fact checking. Mass anti-Russian hysteria and protest. Russia’s protestations fall on deaf ears. Behind it all vested financial interests of  an US arms manufacturer.

Fast forward to 2018.

– Amateurish assassination attempt with Soviet era nerve agent against ex-Russian spy living for ten years in Salisbury after prisoner exchange. British government immediately blames Russian president without a shred of evidence. Tit for tat diplomat expulsion. Word wide anti-Russian hysteria driven by mainstream media without any fact checking. Calls for increase in defence spending. After months British police reveal that they have no suspect.

–  Video clip released by the infamous “White Helmets” (see John Pilger) with the claim that is was a gas attack by the Syrian government. The “White Helmets” are a government funded ex-British military outfit operating in Syria claiming to be an aid organisation bona fide aid organisations have never heard off. Syrian government denies any gas attack. No independent verification. Robert Fisk, one of the most respected Western journalist living in the Middle East for decades arrives at the scene a couple of days later talks to hospital staff and people living in the area and finds no evidence of a gas attack. One doctor is quoted :
There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”
But you see what you want to see. The West (US, Britain, France) have already launched retaliatory bombing raids. Never mind that the UN are still investigating the claims.

 –  The most audacious and dangerous piece of anti- Iranian propaganda (see Washington Post report and footage) was delivered by prime minister Netanyahu of Israel. A state which secretly developed nuclear weapons and still denies their existence and unlike Iran is not party to any nuclear arms treaty and does not allow any international inspectors. Subsequently the Israeli occupiers of the Syrian Golan Heights were warned to go to their bunkers and some rockets duly landed on that occupied territory. This was then given as a reason for Israel’s attack on Iranian positions in Syria.

The US wanted war with Iran for a long time (must watch: Anissa Naouai). They used proxies like Saddam Hussein’s before to wage war on Iran.
How long will it take for Israel to attack Iran most likely with nuclear weapons and the backing of Washington’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse ? Western propaganda is doing overtime to prepare us. The Media perpetuate the propaganda instead of checking facts and finding the truth..

Why waste time discovering the truth
when you can so easily create it  ?

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber
Posted in Media Grabs, politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment