Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guns-to-Caviar Index / Kaviar-Kanonen-Index

[The Guns-to-Caviar Index] „tracks the sales of fighter jets (guns) and executive jets (caviar). For seventeen years, it consistently found that when fighter jets were selling briskly, sales of luxury executive jets went down and vice versa: when executive jet sales were on the rise, fighter jet sales dipped. Of course, a handful of war profiteers always managed to get rich from selling guns, but they were economically insignificant. It was a truism of the contemporary market that you couldn't have booming economic growth in the midst of violence and instability.
But that truism is no longer true. Since 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, the index found that spending has been going up on both fighter jets and executive jets rapidly and simultaneously, which means that the world is becoming less peaceful while accumulating significantly more profit. The
galloping economic growth in China and India played a part in the increased demand for luxury items, but so did the expansion of the narrow military-industrial complex into the sprawling disaster capitalism complex. Today, global instability does not just benefit a small group of arms dealers; it generates huge profits for the high-tech security sector, for heavy construction, for private health care companies treating wounded soldiers, for the oil and gas sectors—and of course for defense contractors.“

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, Chapter 21: Loosing the Peace Incentive

[Der Kanonen-Kaviar-Index] „vergleicht die Verkaufszahlen von Kampf-flugzeugen (Kanonen) mit denen von Firmenjets (Kaviar). 17 Jahre lang zeigte sich zuverlässig die Gesetzmäßigkeit, dass die Zahl der verkauften Firmenjets deutlich nach unten ging, wenn Kampfflugzeuge Konjunktur hatten. Und umgekehrt: Wenn die Verkäufe von Firmenjets zunahmen, sackten die Umsätze bei Kampfflugzeugen ab. Natürlich schafften es  einige Kriegsgewinnler immer, mit dem Verkauf von Kanonen reich zu werden, aber die fielen volkswirtschaftlich nicht ins Gewicht. Es galt als Binsenweisheit der zeitgenössischen Wirtschaft, dass es in Zeiten von Gewalt und Instabilität kein nachhaltiges Wachstum geben könne.
Doch diese Binsenweisheit trifft nicht mehr zu. Seit 2003, dem Jahr des Einmarsches im Irak, zeigt der Index, dass sowohl bei Kampfflugzeugen als auch bei Firmenjets die Umsätze rapide und simultan gestiegen sind, was bedeutet, dass die Welt kriegerischer geworden ist und zugleich erheblich mehr Profite angehäuft werden. Zur größeren Nachfrage bei Luxusartikeln hat nicht nur das sprunghafte Wirtschaftswachstum in China und Indien beigetragen, sondern auch die Ausweitung des begrenzten militärisch-industriellen Komplexes zum blühenden Katastrophen-Kapitalismus-Komplex. Die weltweite Instabilität kommt heute nicht nur einer kleinen Gruppe von Waffenhändlern zugute, sie generiert auch riesige Profite auf dem Hightech-Sicherheitssektor, im Bereich Großbauwerke, für private medizinische Unternehmen, die verwundete Soldaten behandeln, in der Erdöl- und Erdgasbranche – und natürlich für militärische Dienstleistungen.“

Naomi Klein, Die Schock-Strategie, p.598f

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Deutschland 1946

 „Bis 1947 dezimiert das Elend die deutsche Bevölkerung – Kinder, Alte, Flüchtlinge – ohne das geringste Gefühl seitens der alliierten Besatzungsmächte hervorzurufen – aus Sicht der Sieger ist es nur die gerechte Strafe. Doch im Sommer 1947 ändert sich die Strategie der USA grundlegend. Der kalte Krieg kündigt sich an und die Westmächte fürchten die ausgeblutete deutsche Bevölkerung könne dem kommunistischen Lager anheimfallen. Sie wollen nun lieber ein starkes wohlhabendes Deutschland, einen verlässlichen Verbündeten. Der wirtschaftliche Wiederaufbau und der Kampf gegen den Kommunismus drängen die Entnazifizierung in den Hintergrund.“

Dies ist der Schlußsatz des Films „Deutscher Herbst“ von Michael Gaumnitz, inspiriert durch den Bericht des schwedischen Schriftstellers Stig Dagerman, der als junger Journalist im Herbst 1946 durch das zerstörte Nachkriegsdeutschland reiste, um seine Beobachtungen und Eindrücke in einer Serie von Zeitungsartikeln zu veröffentlichen. Letztere wurden als Buch mit dem Titel „Tysk Höst“ (German Autumn, Deutscher Herbst, Autumne Allemand) 1947 veröffentlicht.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hegemony Cables


Ein für deutsche Verhältnisse überraschend offenes Wort von Spiegel-Korrespondent Hans Hoyng (Schlusssatz im Video):
„Es gibt keinen Winkel dieser Erde, den die Supermacht USA nicht ausleuchten.“

A surprisingly open statement done by Spiegel-correspondent Hans Hoyng (final remark of the video):
„There is no last remaining corner of this world not under focus of the superpower USA.“

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Nervenkrieg" - Weichgekocht durch Propaganda


Der Sommer 1939 ist heiß in ganz Europa. Während sich tausende Deutsche im KdF-Urlaub vergnügen und die Stimmung in der Bevölkerung - wenigstens an der Oberfläche - entspannt ist, geht in anderen Teilen Europas die Angst um, besonders in Polen. Die Goebbelsche Propagandamaschinerie läuft schon monatelang auf Hochtouren. Das Thema: Danzig. Viele Polen bereiten sich schon auf den Krieg vor. Sie erwarten den Krieg. Und, getäuscht durch die staatseigene Propaganda, glauben viele, die Deutschen besiegen zu können, selbst nach dem Hitler-Stalin Pakt.

Ein Aspekt erfolgreicher Propaganda liegt in der schier endlosen Wiederholung eines Themas. Die Rezipienten werden weichgekocht, nicht unähnlich einer Gehirnwäsche. Schließlich erhoffen sie sich das anfangs noch Undenkbare/Untolerierbare. Heute wird man über Jahre hinweg mit Meldungen von (möglichen) Massenvernichtungswaffen (Irak, Iran) und über die "Gefahr des weltweiten Terrors" bombardiert, gestern war es die "freie Stadt Danzig": "Danzig ist deutsch ... war deutsch ... und wird deutsch bleiben". Zum Schluß sind alle bereit.

„Das Wichtigste war die nervöse Erwartung des Krieges, ja eigentlich nicht nur „Erwartung“, sondern die Sehnsucht nach dem Krieg. Man wollte, daß dieser kalte Krieg, der sich "Nervenkrieg" damals nannte, nun endlich vorbeigeht. Wir wurden gewarnt von klugen Leuten: „Ihr werdet Euch noch nach diesem „Nervenkrieg“ sehnen. Ihr werdet sehen, was da kommen wird.“ Die allgemeine Stimmung: „erregt“, „nervös“ und tief überzeugt waren alle: „Die Deutschen werden diesen Krieg verlieren.““ Marcel Reich-Ranicki, damals 19 Jahre alt in Polen (Teil 5/6, 06:47)

„The most important thing was the nervous anticipation of the war, well, actually not only „anticipation“ but the craving for the war. One had the desire that this cold war, which was called „war of nerves“ back then, finally would end. We were warned by smart people: „You will soon yearn for this war of nerves. You will see what will come there.“ The common mood: „excited“, „nervous“, and all were deeply convinced: „The Germans will loose this war.““ Marcel Reich-Ranicki in Poland, then 19 years old (Part 5/6, 06:47)

Der Sommer 1939 (alle 6 Teile auf http://www.dokus4.me)
Interviewpartner:  „Literaturpapst“ Marcel Reich-Ranicki, die Regisseure Andrzej Wajda und Mario Monicelli, die Psychoanalytikerin Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen, Schriftsteller Pavel Kohout, Madeleine Riffaud und Hans Keilson, der TV-Komiker Denis Norden, die russisch-deutsche Chemikerin Elena Strum und der Politiker und Historiker Wladyslaw Bartoszewski.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cut - Copy & Paste Journalism


Did you ever wonder about the fact that the prices of mass media products increase much slower than most other consumer articles? Why is your daily newspaper so cheap and costs nearly the same during the years? It may well be because people are aware that it's not worth a penny.

Here is a recent example: French president Nicolas Sarkozy is currently under pressure because of the so-called 1994 Karachi-gate affair. Whether he had been involved in kickbacks paid to former French Prime Minister Balladur's presidential campaign or not does not matter here. It does not matter either if you like Sarkozy or not. It's about how Mass Media around the world sell you entertainment.

Last Friday evening in Lisbon, on the periphery of the last NATO summit, Sarkozy informally met with a circle of French journalists, microphones allegedly off. And this was the outcome presented yesterday by the world's news makers:

France's Sarkozy brands journalists 'pedophiles'

Sarkozy beschimpft Journalisten als "Pädophile"




„Es scheint, als seien Sie pädophil"


What happened? French Newspaper L'EXPRESS was the first, Monday 22, to report on how Sarkozy answered the Karachi-allegations:

„Une question précise lui a ensuite été posée sur son rôle spécifique à l'époque (ministre du Budget, puis porte-parole du candidat Balladur), après que Charles Millon eut évoqué l'existence de rétrocommissions. Et c'est là que les choses ont dégénéré, lorsque le président a ciblé, au second degré, le journaliste qui l'a interrogé: "Vous êtes un pédophile, j'en ai l'intime conviction, j'ai vu les services secrets mais je ne vous dirai pas lesquels, j'ai vu quelqu'un mais je ne vous dirai pas qui c'est, et c'était oral. Mais j'en ai l'intime conviction, vous êtes un pédophile!" En s'exprimant de la sorte, Nicolas Sarkozy voulait dénoncer ceux qui parlent sans preuve.“

Here's Sarkoz's quote in English, followed by an additional explaining statement by L'EXPRESS:

„You are a pedophile, I firmly believe that. I've seen the secret services but I won't tell you which ones. I saw someone but I won't say who it was, and it was all spoken. But I firmly believe you are a pedophile!" By expressing him in this way, Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to denounce those who speak without proof.

German
„Sie sind ein Pädophiler, ich bin davon innerlich überzeugt, ich habe die Geheimdienstinformationen darüber aber ich werde Ihnen nicht sagen welche, ich habe jemanden gesehen, aber ich werde Ihnen nicht sagen, wer es ist, und es war mündlich. Aber ich bin innerlich davon überzeugt, Sie sind ein Pädophiler.!“ In dem er sich auf diese Weise ausdrückte, wollte Nicolas Sarkozy jene denunzieren, die ohne Beweis sprechen.

It is immediately obvious that Sarkozy was using ironic speech in a counter-argument. Wednesday 24, online Liberation published the audio tape (click here) and a transcription (click here). It turns out that the meeting was actually a calm conversation, with Sarkozy speaking most of the time in a low voice, interrupted by some questions and laughters of the present journalists. Above quotation of L'EXPRESS turns out to be not verbatim correct but close to the intended meaning. The respective passage is included here (Sarkozy speaking):

«Vous comprenez, c’est incroyable, c’est incroyable. Et après, moi, je dois me justifier. Et votre confrère, très sympathique : "Il semblerait que vous ayez donné votre accord pour la création de deux sociétés luxembourgeoises." Mais il connaît pas le nom des sociétés, il ne sait pas si il y a un document qui me met en cause en quoi que ce soit, et moi je réponds… Ce qui ferait, si je parlais "on" : "Nicolas Sarkozy dément avoir donné son accord." Mais écoutez, on est dans un monde de fous, quand même. Il n’y en a pas un seul parmi vous qui croit que je vais organiser des commissions et des rétrocommissions sur des sous-marins au Pakistan, c’est incroyable et ça devient le premier sujet à la télévision. Et vous - j’ai rien du tout contre vous -, "il semblerait que vous soyez pédophile…" Qui me l’a dit ? "J’en ai l’intime conviction. Les services. De source orale. Pouvez-vous vous justifier ?" Et ça devient : "Non, je ne suis pas pédophile."
And this is how German online Spiegel pimps it:
"Und Sie? Ich habe nichts gegen Sie", schnauzte er. "Es scheint aber, als seien Sie pädophil. Wer mir das gesagt hat? Ich habe die innere Überzeugung (...) Können Sie sich rechtfertigen?"
Here's how the BBC does it (almost identical to the German version): 
"As for you, I have nothing at all against you. "[But] it would seem that you are a paedophile... How do I know? I am deeply convinced... Can you defend yourself?"


By leaving out „Les services. De source orale“ from the original, the whole meaning of the quote is changed significantly. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, one of the most acknowledged news paper in the German speaking world does exactly the same. And they all seem to have pasted and copied from the AFP (Agence France Press). The same „journalistic“ method Cut-Copy&Paste is applied by practically the whole set of Anglo-Saxon infotainment, with few exceptions like the Washington Post, waiting until yesterday to join in the debate.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hard Truth or Nonsense?




Less than one year ago, Oslo's prince of peace, Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama thanked the Nobel Peace Prize Committee by mentioning the concept of „necessary war“ five times in his lecture (English version, German translation here):

  1. We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.
  2. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
  3. So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths – that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly.
  4. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation.
  5. Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war.

These five quotations, together with the paragraphs at the end of his speech, show that Obama's views on war are definitely unclear. He switches between a) War is necessary (like a stone to fall down with a certain speed under certain conditions – according to a natural law); b) War is sometimes morally justified (aka “there is just war”); c) War is sometimes legally justified; War is necessary (as a tool) to reach certain goals/fulfill certain tasks (such as “defending the country” is a task of the U.S. president defined in the constitution). However, the question of seriously preventing war is not an issue of today, but one for an indefinite future (not “in our lifetimes”). At the end of his speech he uses the „idealism“, „love“ and „hope“ of Gandhi and King as far-off goals, hard to reach but not impossible. This move leaves space enough to announce the U.S. hegemony status. For the time being we (the rest of the world) should be satisfied with accepting unilateral military/paramilitary actions performed by the only hegemonic superpower left. (Not to speak of accepting the U.S. as “standard bearer in the conduct of war” – an absolutely disgusting remark after what was leaking out about Iraq, Guantanamo and Afghanistan).

But why wait? Why wait with establishing international laws preventing wars, signed by every nation, including the U.S. (- the standard non-signer of hopeful international treaties)?



The speech on the official website of the Nobel Prize → click here.

The whole ceremony (1,5 hours) on the official website of the Nobel Prize → click here.
Mr. Obama's speech starts at 00:45:20. He (an alleged lover of Jazz) would probably agree that the best minutes of the ceremony consisted in the performance of bassist Esperanza Spaulding starting at 00:39:20, just before the speech ;-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

U.S. Citizens without vote/U.S. Bürger ohne Stimmrecht

How many U.S. citizens are lacking of voting rights?

This may appear as an odd question to stubborn and naive believers in the self-proclaimed status of the U.S. as main exporter of democracy, endlessly repeated by the Western mass-media. Fact is, more than 4 millions U.S. citizens are not entitled to vote, neither for the president, nor for a senator or representative in the U.S. Congress:


U.S. Commonwealth Territories
Population
Northern Mariana Islands
     77 000 (2004)
Puerto Rico
3 941 459 (2007)
U.S. Virgin Islands
   113 200 (2004)
American Samoa
     65 000 (2005)
Guam
   168 564 (2005)
TOTAL
4 365 223
data from Fischer Weltalmanach 2010

Puerto Rico has more inhabitants than almost half of the single 50 states and its residents pay practically all federal taxes (directly or indirectly). Nevertheless, since it is no U.S. state and only residents of a state are entitled to participate in elections, we may conclude that the U.S. conception of democracy does not even fulfill the most basic formal requirement.
--> Voting Rights in Puerto Rico

Monday, October 25, 2010

Unasked Anwers, Unanswered Questions



"Unser Kopf ist ein Kübel. Er hat Löcher, und bei den Löchern fließt die Information von der Welt hinein. Das ist auch die Grundtheorie der Pädagogik. Die Trichtertheorie ist dann die Theorie des Lehrprozesses. Der Kübel bekommt noch extra einen Trichter aufgesetzt, und dort gießt man dann das Wissen hinein. Das ist die übliche Theorie. Tatsache ist, daß unsere Pädagogik darin besteht, daß man die Kinder mit Antworten überhäuft, ohne daß sie Fragen gestellt haben, und auf die Fragen, die sie stellen, hört man nicht. [...] Das ist die gewöhnliche Pädagogik: Ungefragte Antworten und unbeantwortete Fragen. (Zustimmung im Auditorium.) Darin besteht im wesentlichen unsere Pädagogik. Es ist aber so, daß alle Organismen, nicht nur der Mensch, sondern alle Organismen, dauernd an die Welt Fragen stellen und dauernd Probleme zu lösen versuchen."

Karl Popper, Vienna, May 1983 (cf. Popper/Lorenz [1985], p. 52f)


Unasked Anwers, Unanswered Questions

Our head is a bucket. It has holes and through the holes information from the world flows into it. That is the basic theory of education. Accordingly, the cone theory is the theory of the learning process. In addition, the bucket gets a cone put on top and then knowledge is poured into it. That's the usual theory. It's a fact that our education consists in bombarding children with answers without them having asked questions, but not in listening to their questions. [...] That's ordinary education: unasked answers and unanswered questions. (Affirmation in the audience.) That's what our education essentially consists of. Nevertheless, all organisms, not humans only, but all organisms pose questions to the world all the time and all the time they try to solve problems. (tranlation by base2014)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Modest Gardener

"Ich möchte zuletzt noch einmal sagen: Versuchen Sie, die Welt als das anzusehen, als was man sie sicher ansehen kann: als einen wunderschönen Platz, den wir wie einen Garten noch verbessern und kultivieren können. Versuchen Sie dabei die Bescheidenheit eines erfahrenen Gärtners anzuwenden, eines erfahrenen Gärtners, der weiß, daß ihm viele seiner Versuche mißglücken werden."
Karl Popper, Vienna, May 1983 (cf. Popper/Lorenz [1985], p. 134)

Kaprun, 2009

"Finally I want to repeat: Try to look at the world as something as which one certainly can see it: as a lovely place which we still can improve and cultivate. Try to apply the modesty of an experienced gardener thereby, an experienced gardener who knows that many of his approaches will fail." (translation by base2014)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

German Criminal Code § 166

Deutsches Strafgesetzbuch § 166

Beschimpfung von Bekenntnissen, Religionsgesellschaften und Weltanschauungsvereinigungen


(1) Wer öffentlich oder durch Verbreiten von Schriften (§ 11 Abs. 3) den Inhalt des religiösen oder weltanschaulichen Bekenntnisses anderer in einer Weise beschimpft, die geeignet ist, den öffentlichen Frieden zu stören, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu drei Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe bestraft.

(2) Ebenso wird bestraft, wer öffentlich oder durch Verbreiten von Schriften  (§ 11 Abs. 3) eine im Inland bestehende Kirche oder andere Religionsgesellschaft oder Weltanschauungsvereinigung, ihre Einrichtungen oder Gebräuche in einer Weise beschimpft, die geeignet ist, den öffentlichen Frieden zu stören.



Slander of religious denominations, religious communities and conviction (Weltanschauung) groups


(1) Who publicly or by distribution of writings (§ 11(3)) slanders the content of a religious denomination or conviction of others and if these act are capable of disturbing the public order, shall be imprisoned for the term of up to 3 years or subjected to a monetary fine.

(2) The same punishment follows for the one who publicly or by distribution of writings (§ 11(3)) slanders an inland church or another religious society or conviction association or their institutions or customs in such a manner, which is capable of disturbing the public order.




In 1998, a German Punk-Rock group was found guilty on the basis of § 166 for the commercial online offering of a T-shirt displaying a pig nailed on a cross. All in all, there did not happen many convictions based on § 166. Religious groups bringing in charges against German blasphemers is normal though - 18 charges alone and 175 complaints sent to the German Press Council in the recent case of the satirical Magazine "Titanic" because of the cover of its April edition (during the last series of abuse scandals in Europe/Germany this year).  But this tolerant criminal prosecution may easily change some day. § 166 contains kind of useful mechanism for religious pressure groups. Suppose some religious fanatics gain more and more power in Germany - like for instance the evangelicals in the U.S. - then they just need to organize violent riots, create heated sentiment, whenever somebody says something provocating against their metaphysical belief. There you are the offense against the public order. And by manufacturing attacks against the public  order - given some half-way provocating statement - they themselves fulfill the preconditions for applying  § 166 . The original provocation turns out not only to be capable of disturbing the public order, it did already.

Friday, October 22, 2010

To Put Something Out of Your Body

"Alle Organismen stellen und lösen dauernd Probleme; und daher ist die Wissenschaft eigentlich nichts als eine Fortsetzung der Tätigkeit der niederen Organismen. Es gibt einen großen Unterschied zwischen der Amöbe und Einstein, und das ist, daß Einstein seinen eigenen Problemlösungen kritisch gegenübersteht. Und das kann er nur, weil es eine Sprache gibt, eine menschliche Sprache, in der wir unsere Problemlösungen formulieren können. Damit stellen wir sie außerhalb unseres Körpers hin. So wie andere Werkzeuge, die wir geschaffen haben. Statt daß wir uns eine Drüse an die Fingerspitze wachsen lassen - eine Tintendrüse - und damit schreiben, schaffen wir eine Feder. Das ist es, was die Menschen von den Tieren unterscheidet." (emphasis by base2014)
Karl Popper, Vienna, May 1983 (cf. Popper/Lorenz [1985], p.53)


"All organisms constantly pose questions and solve problems; and that's why sience is actually nothing but a continuation of activities of the lower organisms. There is a big difference between the amoeba and Einstein, and that is that Einstein faces critically his problem solutions. And he only can do that because there is language, human language, in which we can formulate our problem solutions. Thereby we put them outside of our body. Just like other tools which we created. Instead of letting grow a gland on the tip of our finger - an ink gland - and writing with it, we create a pen. This is what man distinguishes from animal." (emphasis by base2014)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unhappy Teachers

Die Schule verbessern: Unglückliche Lehrer loswerden

"Ich war unter den ersten Studenten im Wiener Pädagogischen Institut. Es war der erste Jahrgang, 1925-1927. [...] Ich war [...] ein begeisterter Schulreformer. Im Gegensatz zur Praxis der Schulreformer habe ich aber den Theorien der Schulreform immer mistraut und bin ihnen kritisch gegenübergestanden. Ich habe damals darüber nachgedacht, was das Wichtigste an der Schulreform wäre. Wie kann man wirklich die Schule reformieren? Indem ich damals über meine eigenen Erfahrungen als junger Lehrer an schlechten Schulen nachgedacht habe, bin ich draufgekommen, daß es das Wichtigste ist, schlechten Lehrern in der Schule die Möglichkeit zu schaffen, die Schule zu verlassen. (Zustimmung im Auditorium.) Ich habe gesehen, daß nur Menschen, die eine gewisse Begabung haben - es ist keine eigentlich intellektuelle Begabung, es ist eine innere Beziehung zu Kindern -, gute Lehrer sein können. Und sehr viele Lehrer werden sozusagen von der Schule eingefangen, sind dort unglücklich und können nicht heraus. Ich habe einen ganz einfachen Vorschlag gemacht: Man muß diesen Menschen, die auch nicht schlechter sind als andere, goldene Brücken bauen, damit sie herauskönnen; dann kommen an ihrer Stelle wieder junge Leute, die zum Teil geborene Lehrer sind. Solange viele Lehrer verbitterte Lehrer sind, verbittern sie die Kinder und machen die Kinder unglücklich. Sie bleiben in der Schule bis zu ihrer Pensionierung und atmen auf, wenn sie eine Pension bekommen. Solange in der Schule verbitterte Lehrer sind, und zwar viele verbitterte Lehrer, die aus begreiflichen Gründen die Kinder terrorisieren, auch deshalb, weil sie von ihren Vorgesetzten, zum Beispiel von Schulinspektoren, eingeschüchtert werden, solange kann die Schule nicht besser werden."

Karl R. Popper, Vienna, May 1983 (cf. Popper/Lorenz [1985])


Sir Karl Popper


Improve School: Get Rid of Unhappy Teachers

"I was among the first students of the Vienna Pädagogisches Institut (University of Education), the first two years 1925-1927 of the school. [...] I was an enthusiastic  school reformer. But in contrast to the praxis of the school reform I have always  taken a critical stance towards the theories of the school reform and have distrusted them. At that time I was thinking about what would be the most important thing about the school reform. How can you really reform school? By thinking about my own experiences as young teacher on bad schools, I realized that it would be the most important thing to give bad teachers in school the possibility to leave school. (Affirmation from the audience). I noticed that only persons with a certain talent - it's not a genuine intellectual talent, it's about having a good rapport to children - can be good teachers. And many teachers are - so to say - caught by school and feel miserable there and cannot get out. I made a very simpe suggestion: We have to smooth the way for these people which are not worse than others either, so that they can get out; subsequently other young people will come and take their place, some of them born teachers. As long as many teachers are embittered teachers, they will embitter the children and make them unhappy. They stay in school until their retirement and breathe a sigh of relief when they start receiving their retirement pay. As long as there are embittered teachers in school, in fact many embittered teachers, which - due to comprehensible reasons -  terrorize children, also because they are intimidated by their supervisors, school inspectors for example, school cannot get better." (translation by base2014)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Democracy & Propaganda (1)

Let me begin by counter-posing two different conceptions of democracy. One conception of democracy has it that a democratic society is one in which the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free. If you look up democracy in the dictionary you'll get a definition something like that.
 An alternative conception of democracy is that the public must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. That may sound like an odd conception of democracy, but it's important to understand that it is the prevailing conception. In fact, it has long been, not just in operation, but even in theory. There's a long history that goes back to the earliest modern democratic revolutions in seventeenth century England which largely expresses this point of view.




Noam Chomsky [1991]


According to Chomsky, a democracy must fulfill at least the following three, vaguely formulated, conditions: (i) citizens have "the means to participate in some meaningful way" in the decision-making process and (ii) citizens have free access to information concerning this process and (iii) this information is "open" (true, uncensored, unfiltered). One might call in question whether the denial of (ii) and (iii) still leave the possibility of (i) but the latter is too indefinite to be tested and has to be further specified.
A clear representative of the „alternative“ conception of democracy is Edward L. Bernays – the godfather of the Public Relations industry. In 1928 he put forward his „invisible government“ theory of democracy by deniying each of these three „conventional“ conditions. In the first chapter of his book „Propaganda“, tellingly entitled „Organizing Chaos“, he maintains that it is practically impossible to match conditions (ii) and (iii) and therefore we should forget about (i) and/or be content with leaving decisions to our invisible leaders:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet. They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons — a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.
Edward L. Bernays
It is not usually realized how necessary these invisible governors are to the orderly functioning of our group life. In theory, every citizen may vote for whom he pleases. Our Constitution does not envisage political parties as part of the mechanism of government, and its framers seem not to have pictured to themselves the existence in our national politics of anything like the modern political machine. But the American voters soon found that without organization and direction their individual votes, cast, perhaps, for dozens or hundreds of candidates, would produce nothing but confusion. Invisible government, in the shape of rudimentary political parties, arose almost overnight. Ever since then we have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and practicality, that party machines should narrow down the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three or four. In theory, every citizen makes up his mind on public questions and matters of private conduct. In practice, if all men had to study for themselves the abstruse economic, political, and ethical data involved in every question, they would find it impossible to come to a conclusion about anything. We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift the data and high-spot the outstanding issues so that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions. From our leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public questions; from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favorite assayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time. 
In theory, everybody buys the best and cheapest commodities offered him on the market. In practice, if every one went around pricing, and chemically testing before purchasing, the dozens of soaps or fabrics or brands of bread which are for sale, economic life would become hopelessly jammed. To avoid such confusion, society consents to have its choice narrowed to ideas and objects brought to its attention through propaganda of all kinds. There is consequently a vast and continuous effort going on to capture our minds in the interest of some policy or commodity or idea.
Edward L. Bernays [1928]




We have grown accustomed to go around pricing – most of us do to some extent. We choose among the products offered in supermarkets or real estate agencies, or search for the cheapest flight to our envisaged holiday destination. We have grown accustomed to competition (and we are not surprised about the similarity of prices for similar products because we believe that competition is often not real). This is only possible because pricing is (in most cases) tranparent. If it would be not (and we know such cases), then we would really end up hopelessly lost as Bernays said. Instead, independent institutions for consumer protection have shown great impact to ensure half-way fair competition and free flow of useful information in the marketplace. None of these institutions, in Western Europe mostly set up in the 50s and 60, may be perfectly objective or independent. But this shows only that the independent intitutions monitoring/controlling the actions in a democratic system are always improvable. What Bernays had in mind, when he formulated his „invisible government“ theory in 1928, was a totally uncontrolled marketplace which was, at that time, reality. It was indeed dangerous for the consumer then, just think of German pharmaceutical groups promoting aspirin, heroin and cocain in cough syrup.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Aphasiac Friends

Oliver Sacks
Aphasia, roughly, is a disorder caused by damage to the portions of the brain that control language. Among the many types of this acquired disorder there are those where the aphasiac lacks literal understanding of words and phrases when uttered unemotionally, unexpressively. A pure digital voice without "feeling-tone", speech melody, gestures, grimace cannot be be grasped. On the other hand, an emotional speech is understood by aphasiacs without remembering the (any) words.

When British neurogist Oliver Sacks once during the eighies of the last century passed an aphasia ward, hearing laughter from the room where the aphasiacs were watching a Reagen speech, he found them umused, bewildered and partly outraged. Because, what the sequence of expressions of the old actor's TV speech told them was nonsense. The aphasiacs' deficit may evolve to an increased sensitivity in grasping the whole of communicative actions:


"To such a grimace, to any falsity or impropriety in bodily appearance or posture, aphasiacs are preternaturally sensitive. And if they cannot see one—this is especially true of our blind aphasiacs—they have an infallible ear for every vocal nuance, the tone, the rhythm, the cadences, the music, the subtlest modulations, inflections, intonations, which can give—or remove—verisimilitude to or from a man’s voice.
In this, then, lies their power of understanding—understanding, without words, what is authentic or inauthentic. Thus it was the grimaces, the histrionisms, the false gestures and, above all, the false tones and cadences of the voice, which rang false for these wordless but immensely sensitive patients. It was to these (for them) most glaring, even grotesque, incongruities and improprieties that my aphasic patients responded, undeceived and undeceivable by words."

In the same room present that day, there were also persons suffering the flip-side of the aphasic diagnosis: being able to understand the meaning of words and complicated grammatical structures, but unable to tell an angry from a sad voice: tonal agnosia. Grammitically incorrect phrases, slang or untypical usage of words may confuse tonal agnosiacs. They would probably love Stephen W. Hawking's voice.

Sacks reports of one of the female agnosiacs:

"[she] also listened, stony-faced, to the President’s speech, bringing to it a strange mixture of enhanced and defective perceptions — precisely the opposite mixture to those of our aphasiacs. It did not move her — no speech now moved her — and all that was evocative, genuine or false completely passed her by. [...] ‘He is not cogent,’ she said. ‘He does not speak good prose. His word-use is improper. Either he is brain-damaged, or he has something to conceal.’ Thus the President’s speech did not work for [her] either, due to her enhanced sense of formal language use, propriety as prose, any more than it worked for our aphasiacs, with their word-deafness but enhanced sense of tone."

In some European parliaments speeches are simultaneously translated into sign language. TV news sometimes display a small portion of the screen reserved for a sign language interpreter. One may well wish that the interpreters would be joined by one of Sacks' patients to mirror all the lies. Or let every president hold his new year's eve speech accompanied by an aphasiac smiling into the camera. In times of a happy revival of torture, one may well wish for a trained, hyper-sensitive aphasiac interrogator as a more elegant solution to the ticking bomb scenario than Alan Dershowitz midieval suggestion.


Oliver Sacks' clinical tale "The President's Speech" can be read online. It is entailed in Sacks [1985].

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The True Culprits of War

"The true culprits are those who mislead public opinion and take advantage of the people's ignorance to raise disquieting rumors and sound the alarm bell, inciting their country and consequently other countries into enmity. The real culprits are those who by interest or inclination, declaring constantly that war is inevitable, end by making it so, asserting that they are powerless to prevent it. The real culprits are those who sacrifice the general interest to their own personal interest which they so little understand, and who hold up to their country a sterile policy of conflict and reprisals. In reality there is no salvation, no way out either for small states or for great countries except by union and conciliation."
Paul Henri Benjamin Balluet, Baron d'Estournelles de Constant de Rebecque, Senator of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, introduction to the Report to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars, 1914.


"Die wahren Schuldigen sind jene, die die öffentliche Meinung in die Irre führen, Vorteil aus der Unwissenheit ihrer Landsleute ziehen, Gerüchte streuen und falschen Alarm schlagen, ihr Land in Aufruhr bringen und als Folge davon Feindseligkeiten in anderen Ländern schüren. Die wahren Schuldigen sind jene, die aus Interesse oder weil es ihr Naturell ist, den Krieg ständig für unvermeidbar erklären, und indem sie dafür sorgen, daß er tatsächlich unausweichlich wird, zugleich behaupten, es stünde nicht in ihrer Macht, ihn zu verhindern. Die wahren Schuldigen sind jene, die das allgemeine Wohl ihrem persönlichen Wohl opfern, das sie gar nicht wirklich kennen, und ihr Land mit einer unproduktiven, auf Konflikt und Unterdrückung bauenden Politik führen. In Wirklichkeit gibt es aber kein anderes Heil, keinen anderen Ausweg für kleine noch für große Länder als das Bündnis und die Versöhnung."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Who Should Rule?




Karl R. Popper
"It is my conviction that by expressing the problem of politics in the form ‘Who should rule?’ or ‘Whose will should be supreme?’, etc., Plato created a lasting confusion in political philosophy. It is indeed analogous to the confusion he created in the field of moral philosophy by his identification, discussed in the last chapter, of collectivism and altruism. It is clear that once the question ‘Who should rule?’ is asked, it is hard to avoid some such reply as ‘the best’ or ‘the wisest’ or ‘the born ruler’ or ‘he who masters the art of ruling’ (or, perhaps, ‘The General Will’ or ‘The Master Race’ or ‘The Industrial Workers’ or ‘The People’). But such a reply, convincing as it may sound—for who would advocate the rule of ‘the worst’ or ‘the greatest fool’ or ‘the born slave’?—is, as I shall try to show, quite useless. First of all, such a reply is liable to persuade us that some fundamental problem of political theory has been solved. But if we approach political theory from a different angle, then we find that far from solving any fundamental problems, we have merely skipped over them, by assuming that the question ‘Who should rule?’ is fundamental. For even those who share this assumption of Plato’s admit that political rulers are not always sufficiently ‘good’ or ‘wise’ (we need not worry about the precise meaning of these terms), and that it is not at all easy to get a government on whose goodness and wisdom one can implicitly rely. If that is granted, then we must ask whether political thought should not face from the beginning the possibility of bad government; whether we should not prepare for the worst leaders, and hope for the best. But this leads to a new approach to the problem of politics, for it forces us to replace the question: Who should rule? by the new question: How can we so organize political institutions that bad or incompetent rulers can be prevented from doing too much damage?"






Karl Raimund Popper in The Open Society and Its Enemies,
  [1945], Vol.1, Chapter 7: The Principle Of Leadership





One might not get Popper's idea at first reading. A democrat might easily object that there is no problem with this question „who should rule?“, because the answer is straight forward: „the one, who gets the majority of votes“. But with this naive answer the democrat just does not get out of the trouble. The whole point in Popper's arguments against the question „Who should rule?“ is that it does not even mention control of the souvereign. That the souvereign is not controlled or even should not be controlled – this is what Popper calls the theory of (unchecked) sovereign. According to Popper, each instance of this principle leads to an inconsistency. E.g. if the answer is „the wisest man“, then it might happen that this wisest man wisely decides the majority should rule, thereby giving up his own sovereign. The same holds for the naive democrat.

"[…] there is also a kind of logical argument which can be used to show the inconsistency of any of the particular forms of the theory of sovereignty; more precisely, the logical argument can be given different but analogous forms to combat the theory that the wisest should rule, or else the theories that the best, or the law, majority, etc., should rule. One particular form of this logical argument is directed against a too naive version of liberalism, of democracy, and of the principle that the majority should rule; and it is somewhat similar to the well-known ‘paradox of freedom’ which has been used first, and with success, by Plato. In his criticism of democracy, and in his story of the rise of the tyrant, Plato raises implicitly the following question: What if it is the will of the people that they should not rule, but a tyrant instead? The free man, Plato suggests, may exercise his absolute freedom, first by defying the laws and ultimately by defying freedom itself and by clamouring for a tyrant. This is not just a far-fetched possibility; it has happened a number of times; and every time it has happened, it has put in a hopeless intellectual position all those democrats who adopt, as the ultimate basis of their political creed, the principle of the majority rule or a similar form of the principle of sovereignty. On the one hand, the principle they have adopted demands from them that they should oppose any but the majority rule, and therefore the new tyranny; on the other hand, the same principle demands from them that they should accept any decision reached by the majority, and thus the rule of the new tyrant. The inconsistency of their theory must, of course, paralyse their actions. Those of us democrats who demand the institutional control of the rulers by the ruled, and especially the right of dismissing the government by a majority vote, must therefore base these demands upon better grounds than a self-contradictory theory of sovereignty."


Note that the theories of sovereignity only destroy themselves under certain conditions. It does not follow with necessity that the majority will finally vote for a tyrant. But uncontrolled sovereign might always end up this way (as we know).






Just for the record, what if the answer is that the capitalists should rule? Under which conditions would the capitalists decide to abolish the sovereign of capitalism?  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Arbitrarily Detain and Release Citizens (3)


"Homosexuality is a grave sin!"
In August 2006 during the annual Christopher Street Parade, a German hotel keeper in Munich had equipped a so-called popemobile with a puppet of the pope. The puppet of pope Benedikt XVI had blue-red make-up and a green condom in his hand; the scene was garnished with banners containing earlier quotations of the pope: “Homosexual relationships are deeply unmoral” and “We have to encounter homosexuals with mercy” and the like. The happening took place during a kind of euphoria in German mass media due to the upcoming visit of the German (in fact Bavarian born) pope, producing headlines such as “We are Pope”. Accordingly, the popemobile showed a banner “Are we Pope?”, referring to homosexuals. A priest, who had watched the scene, (some say he was a member of the notorious Society of Saint Pius X), called the police who immediately ordered the carriage to be taken off the road on the grounds that the pope had been insulted as gay (!) (Why would a gay insult someone as gay?) Later, the owner of the popemobile received a complaint for having denigrated a foreign head of state and slandered a religious confession. The charge was dismissed. The hotel keeper in return filed a lawsuit against the police for having curtailed his right for freedom of expression and art as well as the right of assembly. Bavarian higher administrative court dropped down the case in the first instance. Only the second try in 2009 was successful. Finally, since March 8, 2010, it is again legally permitted in catholic Bavaria to poke fun at the pope.

Three days before the pope's visit in Germany, September 2006, performance artist Wolfram P. Kastner dressed up as Papal Nuncio and Georg Ledig dressed up as Hitler went arm in arm walking through the inner city of Munich. Before the arrival of the honored son of the German Free State of Bavaria, Kastner and his co-partner wanted to remind people of the tight relationships between the Nazi party and the Vatican. Kastner reports that they were led to the next police station under the pretense of “finding a common clarification of how to choose practicable a way”. His costume was confiscated as “averting danger in respect to public order and safety”. When Kastner complained and told the police that they should rather concentrate on real dangers for the public and that their actions rather look like the actions of a police state than those of a democracy, one of the officers remarked “a little bit of a police state won't hurt”.

Kastner's report (in German) can be read here


In fact, for the Bavarian law 2 (!) citizens having a conversation on the street are enough to constitute an assembly, if the conversation is addressed to the public. If, as in the mentioned case, 2 citizens are performing a silent protest (or only one is speaking), this is not an assembly (see FAQ to the Bavarian Assembly Law)

About the same time, September 14, 2006, a street on the route of the popemobile through the small town of Freising, Bavaria: under a window a banner “DISCRIMINATION, DENIAL, … CHURCH – NO THANK YOU! The author of the banner was staying in the house with his mother and another person when two policemen entered the flat without permission and destroyed the banner, after getting rough and injuring the arm of the owner. No explanation from the police, except “executing an order” and, informally, “that the pope drops by in Freising every few centuries and so this should be well received in the public”. The attacked man went a long way to defend his rights but was not successful finally: the German Constitutional Court dropped down the case on a technicality. (-->whole documentation of the case in German language, including original documents)

That much on the unconditional love of the Bavarian police for “their” pope, Josef Ratzinger. One could fill books with cases of curtailing citizens' assembly in Germany, alone in the last decade. German blogs are chock full of complaints about the “surveillance state” or the “police state Germany” and one may concede the Germans some degree of sensibility towards “a little bit of a police state” - 65 years after the Nazi regime and about 20 years after the Stasi.

Some of these stories of German surveillance measures are almost too irresistible to keep back. Here's another goody (once described as the highlight on the journey to Absurdistan):


Bavarian leather trousers
Another vague concept in German Jurisdiction that is open to free interpretation by the executive authorities. According to German law it is unclear whether famous Bavarian leather trousers may be seen as “body armor” or just the usual traditional clothing, since leather has a cushioning and isolating effect (in respect to electric shocks).




The truly highlights of German government's terrorist hysteria appeared when it came to prepare three critic-free receptions for George W. Bush in Berlin (2002), Mainz and Wiesbaden (2005) and Stralsund (2006). This is to be discussed in a later post.


Back to Naomi Wolf's The End of America – Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. In Chapter 7 she only leaves a small part for:


        3.   Curtailing Citizens' Assembly

Dictators fear the power of mass movements and try to restrict assemblies therefore. Wolf gives examples from Mussolini's Italy, Mexico, Pinochet's Chile. Examples of the strength built up by marching in a mass:

“It is masses of people united who brought down the Berlin Wall; stood up to Chinese tanks; and overwhelmed a dictator in the Philippines. Massed citizens ended Jim Crow laws and brought the war in Vietnam to a close. It is so simple a tool, but so powerful.”


The only recent example of curtailing the freedom of assembly given by Wolf is that of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration banning protesters from the Great Lawn in New York's Central Park during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Eventually the case was settled in 2008 by ordering the city “to pay damages to civil rights and anti-war organizations for discriminatorily denying them the right to hold a demonstration on the Great Lawn”.

One might be surprised that only one example is offered. The freedom of assembly seems to be the one of the best protected rights in the U.S. (?)

Two more examples from Europe, the first of the effectiveness of mass protests, the second concerning another try to restrict the freedom of assembly:
This possibly may not happen in London where Parliamentarians don't like to be disturbed by the masses and therefore banned any protests at close range since 2005 – thereby creating their own critic-free zone: see “How Parliament passed the Statute Law banning the right of Legitimate Protest within sight of itself and the Government”.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Arbitrarily Detain and Release Citizens (2)

Part 2 of Naomi Wolf's 6th principle on how to destroy a democracy.


Naomi Wolf's initial citation comes from the United States Constitution: the Fourth Amendment:

She emphasizes the historical role of the amendment which lies in the firsthand experience of the colonial Americans of “how abusively authorities [British Crown tax agents] could use the power of a blanket warrant to break into their homes and seize private papers […] rip up their trunks and cabinets […] and haul off their goods – even if they weren't hiding anything that they should have paid taxes on”. Wolf further notes that “the Fourth Amendment specifically rejects vague general warrants” as given by Bush's USA PATRIOT Act and that “most of us don't fully understand the details of the debate over the Bush administration's efforts to avoid getting a legal warrant for each time that it reads our e-mails, opens our mail, and listens in on our phone calls – or enters our homes unbeknownst to us”.
The only examples she offers is Brandon Mayfield, an American lawyer erroneously accused by the FBI to have left his fingerprints on evidence of the Madrid train bombings 2004. The FBI had bungled a fingerprint match, see Washington Post: $2 Million Will Be Paid For Wrongful Arrest After Madrid Attack!

The so-called Patriot Act can be read here:


(end of summary)

Justice Robert H. Jackson (chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials) once during a trial put the importance of these rights aptly, after quoting the Fourth Amendment:

“These, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police. But the right to be secure against searches and seizures is one of the most difficult to protect. Since the officers are themselves the chief invaders, there is no enforcement outside of court.