November 30th, 2009

The case against John Demjanjuk

Here, there is a lot of attention again on the anti-Muslim xenophobia: the swiss voted in favor of a law forbidding the building of minarets at mosks, and of course our silly PVV is gloating at the prospect, and not entirely without political gain: I am pretty convinced more than 60% of our population would support the same thing by now, the end of a tolerant society.

I am more interested in something else, and in a way, affecting us all and, in the long run the above mentioned phobia. In Germany, the trial against John Demjanjuk started today. Demjanjuk was a notorious camp butcher in Sobibor, one of the WWII concentration camps in Germany. Actually, Sobibor was a “vernichtungslager” (extermination camp). I have to assume he is one of the last, if not the last to be trialled for the extermination of jews in WWII.  Demjanjuk is believed to have had his hand in the killing of around 27.000 people.

Under German law, victims have the right to co-prosecute in a criminal trial. Today, I listened to an interview with a family man who lost two sisters, and it was touching how he spoke with love about the sisters he never knew, but also the fear they must have felt, the powerful impression Demjanjuk must have made on them, and also the near feeling of compassion for this now small, old, and pathetic man. He carefully pointed out how these emotions blur the needed crisp vision for justice and how he welcomes, but also feels the irony, of the Germans now finally bringing this man to justice (he was acquitted by the Israeli’s, expelled by the Americans).

I urge you not to turn a blind eye on this historic event. It can teach us, post war generation, where hate and intolerance can lead us.

November 18th, 2009

STRIKE at The University of California (UC)

Tomorrow, for the second time this semester, staff, faculty and students at the University of California campuses will go on strike for 3-days. The first strike, a one-day strike on September 24, which I attended, saw an estimated 5,000 workers, students and faculty jammed into UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza. That strike and demonstration was, by most accounts, the largest gathering at Sproul since the late 1960′s – early 1970′s. Other campuses through out California also had to deal with students, faculty and workers dismayed with the direction the Universities Board of Regents has chosen. BTW, this week, the UC Board of Regents will meet and vote on a proposed 32% tuition increase (averaged) and on further increases in tuition for students enrolled in “desirable” and potentially profitable professional fields (medicine, law and business for examples).

The concept behind public education in the United States used to be that it was for the public good. It would seem that the role of institutions of higher eduction now are to produce bean counters and “yes men” to service the needs of our corporate elites. I can’t wait to see how this weeks UC strike plays out in the corporate press – if the corporate reporters cover the strike and their editors allow publication, what details will they reveal? I think what they say will speak volumes about who thinks “they” are in charge. I think we are entering a new age of class warfare – it will be interesting to see how this clash between the elites and the people plays out (ie which group, the corporate elites, or the public is left gasping for their last breath?)

for a quick rundown see or listen to yesterdays edition of DEMOCRACY NOW

UPDATE (091118 00:18h): Other links of interest related to The Strike:

Coalition of University Employee (CUE)

UC Layoff FAQ (from UC “human resources”)

PR from a UC HR website – it must be true if it comes from HR :)


The Daily Californian an independent, student-run newspaper

Update 091118: I was thinking about something my father used to talk about before I reached my teens, “a society shows what it values most by the wages it pays.” A WWII veteran from a family that just made it through the depression he used his GI Bill benefits to earn a PhD. When he declared his belief a union truck driver was, on average, making about $10,000 a year more than he was. After spending nearly a decade learning, studying and earning his PhD. he was teaching nursing students and future physicians about the structure of the human body and the intricacies of our bodies physiology and neural systems, he was also educating future scientists and interested students (citizens) about the subtle relationships that exist between fresh water fishes and their environment. The list of folks that make scads more money than the people we entrust with our intellectual and creative futures is an insult to logic – I’ll leave it to you to do the calculations.

LA Times (OpEd): “Is a $26,000 UC education still a deal?

San Francisco Chronicle: “Regents committee recommends UC fee hikes.”

Mercury News: “UC regents recommend 32 percent fee hike.”

Mercury News: “UC regents show support for Yudof; demonstrators arrested.”

November 14th, 2009

The Wave

Yeehaw, I am on Google Wave, got my invitation today. If you have no idea what I am talking about watch this jaw-dropping video in HD