January 27th, 2010

To not forget

Today, after 112 hours, the reading of 102.000 names of people who were transported through the Nazi deportation camp Westerbork in my country and then onwards by cattle train to the extermination camps in Poland came to an end with the last name on the memorial, Heinrich Zysmanowicz.

The youngest reader was 11, the oldest 80. A few by telephone from the US and Israël.

Let us not ever forget the evil that can be created and nourished by hatred. Let us not forget what administrations can do if they know too much (is that why they are called “administrations”?); the round up of Jews in WWII was ultra efficient in my country because of the wonderfully complete and precise record keeping.

March 23rd, 2009

Riki Ott on Democracy Now! this Tuesday

I just received an email to let me know that Dr. Riki Ott, a resident of Valdez Cordova, a commercial “Fisherma’am,” author and Marine Biologist will be on Democracy Now! this Tuesday. Riki is the author of Sound Truths & Corporate Myths and more recently, Not One Drop. It’s rare that current Alaskan environmental issues get national coverage. If you miss Tuesday’s show you can always download Tuesday’s show fromThe Democracy Now! website.

February 2nd, 2009

What should we expect?

We have a new type of rule now. Not one-man rule, or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision.

They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of past.

There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers.

The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident. Inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.

—William S. Burroughs, “No More Stalins, No More Hitlers,” from Dead City Radio, Island Records, 1990; and Interzone, Viking Books, 1989.

November 3rd, 2008

Eve of Destruction

Noam Chomsky recently noted that the United States has one political party with two factions: the Republicans and the Democrats. The elections to be held this Tuesday in the United States will, no doubt, impact people around the world, some for better and many for worse. I’m not sure why, but I was poking around in my “archives” tonight and revisited a lecture that has had a big impact on how I view my country. Speaking at Riverside Church in New York City author Arundhati Roy delivered her thoughts in a message titled, “Instant Mix Imperial Democracy (Buy One Get One Free),” on April 13, 2003.

Roy noted, among many other things, that:

Way back in 1988, on the 3rd of July, the U.S.S. Vincennes, a missile cruiser stationed in the Persian Gulf, accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner and killed 290 civilian passengers. George Bush the First, who was at the time on his presidential campaign, was asked to comment on the incident. He said quite subtly, “I will never apologize for the United States. I don’t care what the facts are.”

I don’t care what the facts are. What a perfect maxim for the New American Empire. Perhaps a slight variation on the theme would be more apposite: The facts can be whatever we want them to be.

When the United States invaded Iraq, a New York Times/CBS News survey estimated that 42 percent of the American public believed that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And an ABC News poll said that 55 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein directly supported Al Qaida. None of this opinion is based on evidence (because there isn’t any). All of it is based on insinuation, auto-suggestion, and outright lies circulated by the U.S. corporate media, otherwise known as the “Free Press,” that hollow pillar on which contemporary American democracy rests.

Public support in the U.S. for the war against Iraq was founded on a multi-tiered edifice of falsehood and deceit, coordinated by the U.S. government and faithfully amplified by the corporate media.

Good luck to us all.

A written transcript of Roy’s presentation is available here.

May 4th, 2008

May 4th

Today, May 4th, we commemorate the men and women who died or were murdered in violence of war or during peace operations, since (and including) World War II. A short ceremony is held on “The Dam” in the center of Amsterdam, the national war monument. A short speech, about how we can commemorate, how freedom is not something that should be taken for granted. Sometimes a personal note. Then, the Queen lays a wreath, and at 8PM the country stops for two minutes. Silence. Trains halt. All networks broadcast the same, the ceremony, the silence. Impressive. Then, a few more wreaths are laid by veteran organizations, the administration, etcetera. An emotional moment as the commander in chief laid the wreath on behalf of the joint armies; his son was killed in Afghanistan less than 3 weeks ago.

May 4th, The Dam, Amsterdam

I cannot help but think about the insane anti-islam politician who scooped 10 seats in parliament. A few notable things he said:

  • “The core of the problem is the fascist Islam, the sick ideology of Allah and Mohammed as enshrined in the Islamic Mein Kampf: the Koran.”
  • And the Koran is the Mein Kampf of a religion that seeks to eliminate others [...]“
  • “I have enough of Islam in the Netherlands: no moslim immigrant anymore. [...] I have enough of the Quran in the Netherlands: prohibit the fascist book. “
  • “If Muslims want to stay here, they should tear out and throw away half of the Quran.”
  • “The borders closed, no more Muslims in the Netherlands, many Muslims Netherlands, denaturalisatie of Islamic criminals.”
  • “Islam is a violent religion. If Mohammed lived here today, I would mark him as an extremist, who would have to be tossed out of the country drenched in tar and rolled in feather.”

It’s not even funny his party is called “Party for the Freedom”. Indeed, freedom is not something that should be taken for granted.

February 19th, 2008

Why Archives are important

In the autumn of 1996, the newly installed Taliban decreed that moving pictures were heretical and had to be destroyed. This was obviously very bad news for Afghan Film, the Kabul-based organisation that both promoted Afghan cinema and housed the Asian republic’s entire film and TV archive. One hundred and eighteen of its 120 employees fled; the two who remained, lab technician Khwaja Ahmadshah and a colleague, resolved to risk their lives in defence of cinema.

I’d be the first to admit that I have a soft-spot for archives. I know that archives are not the kind of things that give most folks a “warm and fuzzy” feeling, but like museums and libraries and even the detritus amassed by “collectors” their worth is often underestimated. Folks who work in archives are often obsessively devoted to the material they were hired to protect. This article, from guardian.co.uk, ‘If I find one reel, I must kill you’ hopefully will help you to get the “warm and fuzzies” when you think of archives and their relationship to our history and culture.

January 27th, 2008

The concentration camp

Today, exactly 63 years ago, Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-Birkenau (Concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz) was liberated by the allies. About 1.1 million people were killed there, 90% Jews from Europe. 9 days earlier, the Nazi’s started to evacuate the camp’s 60.000 prisoners and had destroyed the gas chambers. 15.000 of them died during transport.

About 107.000 people of my country were sent to concentration camps on a total of 93 cattle trains, all through the deportation camp Westerbork. Of those 107.000, about 5.200 returned.

January 4th, 2008

The naked thruth on TV

Bear with me while I explain our TV system. Commercial TV was only introduced in the early 90′s, and only through a U-turn construct where legally, the network was based in Luxembourg. Airtime on the three public networks is divided over operators who need a minimum number of members. on the public PBS like networks, there have always been like like 3-4 relatively large operators, spread over the cultural/political spectrum, and about the same number of niche players, getting considerably less airtime. While there is not much direct interference with what the operators decide to broadcast, there are formal (and informal) rules about classification, certain types that cannot be broadcasted before say 8PM, etc etc.

Skip back 40 years, 1967. Progressive niche player VPRO started “Hoepla” (Hoopla), an absurd, incoherent show, but mind you, Jimi Hendrix even performed in it. Model Phil Bloom was asked to walk through the studio, but when the moment was there, in an adolescent mood, they all decide to let her walk naked, with only some flowers that she “accidentally” drops. No breasts, no pubic hair, but first time ever nakedness on Dutch public TV. It cost the VPRO 67 members. In the next episode, she is shown while reading aloud a fake newspaper article of the “incident”, then handing over the paper to a co-presenter and lo and behold, her naked breasts are shown.

Phil Boom

This time, Hoepla made it into parliament, to the delight of the makers. And it got it’s moment of world glory: In the US and Germany, fragments were shown (but of course not the ones with Phil naked). ‘Such a fuss as a blonde goes on tv in the nude’ wrote Daily Mirror and ‘Where had all the flowers gone?’. Ladies and gentlemen, history is staring you in the face.


September 17th, 2007

Undoing the past

A friend sent me a link to a story by John Fisk that details the destruction and looting of archaeological sites in Iraq. Because of the looting there is so much history that we will never know. Bush and the U.S. Congress have once again, through the consequences of their actions “out Orwelled Orwell.” For an example of what Fisk is talking about check out this website where for a mere $200 you can buy your very own cylinder seal from Ur.

How depressing.