Mittwoch, 31. Dezember 2008

Happy New Beer!

I was determined to explore new organic beers in 2008. And that, at least, I managed (don´t ask about the rest of the new year´s resolutions, please!) Whatever else 2008 was, it´s been a good beer year (may be investment sharks just drank too many cocktails!)! Almost wherever I went, I found new organic brews - and some were pretty decent! So, while newspapers review the events of 2008 and make (mostly speculative to absurd) predictions for 2009, I end the year by telling you about some more beers that could sweeten your new year (and bring us closer to an agriculture that won´t cost the earth). - Let me start by finishing off reviewing some beers by the Dutch Brouwereij ´t IJ. Not sure where they get their names from, but their beers are of a consistently high quality. The beer they call Columbus (the bottle shows an ostrich and a sailing ship - a comment on colonialism, that I doubt is intentional, but I do find amusing ...) is strong (9%) but refreshing. It´s got nothing to do with a Pilsner, but it is clearly a beer, as a strong taste of hop lingers on the tongue. The Struis (ostrich), gladly, tastes nothing like ostrich or egg! Though also 9%-strong, it´s smooth and remarkably light. On a dark, rainy night in Amsterdam, it´s bound to lighten your spirits! - The only disappointment I found this year comes, predictably, from France. The Moulin des Moines sounds like a great institution. But may be they should stick to wine and biscuits. Their Pilsner, certainly, is poor. It can only be recommended at the end of a very long hot French countryside day, when you are so thirsty that you gulp the beer down no matter what (sadly, I didn´t experience such a day this year). - Better news comes from much closer to home. The Potsdamer Braumanufaktur does excellently designed bottles and perfectly decent beers. Their motto: "Geld allein macht nicht glücklich. Trinkt Bier!" (Money alone does not make you happy. Drink beer!) is my new year´s resolution for 2009 (I am learning to only set myself tasks I can master ...). Their Potsdamer Stange beer is very light, but tasty. Their Weizen, while it cannot compete with true Bavarian wheat beers (such as those from Bayreuth or Neumarkter Lammsbräu), is still good. For a Prussian version of this ultimate Bavarian drink, it´s remarkable. The best news is that I have still to try their Hell and their Dunkel beers. And in 2009, I must also manage a visit to their brewery and beer garden! Things to look forward to ... - 2008, meanwhile, also saw the launch of the first Berlin-brewed organic beer. The Berliner Bürgerbräu used to be a cooperative (before the Fascists put an end to that) and then was a state owned brewery in East Germany. Today, it is in private hands - and a truly independent brewery with no ties to the big beer conglomorates. The ´Bio Pils´ is a very decent "Feierabendbier" (´after work beer´). It´s light, airy - drinkable. It´s also my newest ethical dilemma! I like this beer; I even recommend it. But, truth be told, I prefer slightly more bitter Pils types. As this beer is the most local, organic choice I can get, I should really make this my ´standard beer´. But can I give up my Neumarkter Lammsbräu (trucked to Berlin from Bavaria)? I doubt it (so it´s not on the resolution list!). - May 2009, however, bring many more organic beers to this world - and my stomach. Organic beer is all we need in one: Pleasure and Revolution. On that fine note, I say: Happy New Beer everyone!

Freitag, 19. Dezember 2008

Merry Christmas, E.On (not)

Dienstag, 16. Dezember 2008

Ohne Worte ...

Besinnliche Weihnacht. Auch ein Märchen?

Montag, 8. Dezember 2008

It´s change we need ...

The most entertaining thing you will come across at the climate negotiations in Poznan, Poland, is this bear. It´s a plain-talking creature, not stuck up on LULUCF or Article 2, and he says it as it is: It´s change we need. - The climate negotiations are not moving forward as fast as they should. There is no ambition matching the increasingly alarming science. But, of course, it is also not surprising that there is no buzz here. What will happen in Copenhagen will crucially depend on Obama. And he ain´t here! - So, it´s easy to be cynical about Poznan and dismiss these negotiations. But that would be dreadfully wrong. These negotiations matter. The UN is the right place to address the climate crisis. There is an alternative to neoliberal economics. But there is no alternative to this torturous process, sorry ... - I am only visiting this year, meeting people that it is easy to get hold of here. - I am finding it a bit odd to not be blogging on the daily politics of it all. But if you want to read about what´s going on here in Poznan, there are plenty of sites you can turn to: Klima der Gerechtigkeit, International Rivers, Wir Klimaretter, Oxfam and many more .... That´s a good thing. Because these negotiations matter. Hugely. Don´t be fooled by the lack of adrenalin in the corridors.

So nicht, Frau Bundeskanzlerin!

Deutsche und der Rest der Welt geben sich oft und gerne der Illusion hin, Deutschland sei ein grünes Schlaraffenland. Weit gefehlt. Nirgendwo in Europa werden so viele Kohlekraftwerke gebaut und geplant; unsere pro Kopf Emissionen sind über dem europäischen Durchschnitt; und ob es um Effizienzstandards bei Autos geht oder um Ausnahmen beim europäischen Emissionshandel - Deutschland ist in Brüssel immer der Bremser. Also ist es Zeit, dass die angebliche "Klimakanzlerin Merkel" unter Druck gerät. Und sehr erfreulich, dass die Klima Allianz (und Partner) heute eine Anzeigenkampagne starten, die Merkels Heuchlerei auf den Punkt bringt: Jetzt aktiv werden: hier.

Donnerstag, 4. Dezember 2008

Montag, 1. Dezember 2008

Praise for Obama´s team - but not from me!

I read The Economist every week. I like how they write; I like their global view. But I rarely agree. Rather, I read The Economist to hone my arguments. So, to see The Economist endorse the emerging Obama team confirms my worst fears. And Hillary proves what I already suspected when Obama was in Berlin: On foreign policy, this is not CHANGE, this is, quite literally, a return to the Clinton (some would say ´Realist´) days. As a political move, it´s genius, of course. A smart move to neutralize the (potential) internal opposition. Yet, a sign of HOPE, it is not. So, Obama: Do what you must. But beware that you do not become the next President that I (and Tracy Chapman) will send "honest regards - for disregarding me" ...

Donnerstag, 27. November 2008

Green is good! Not Greed!

Nice one, Greenpeace UK. The building this banner is hanging from is The Bank of England, no less.

Montag, 24. November 2008

Vattenfall copy cats!

I almost fell off my bike a few days ago. Right on Alexanderplatz was a sea of people. Orange people. They called for climate protection (at least at first sight). This looked familiar. Alexanderplatz looked a lot like the entrance to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. Then, we had brought 6,000 little people - made out of paper by some of the poorest communities in and around Johannesburg - to Sandton Conference centre. Those 6000 ´small people´ had one clear message: "Politicians, listen to the people. Make rules that protect people and the environment." The 2002 summit was a failure. But our art action was very popular. No wonder, then, that when Vattenfall wants to pretend that they are mobilizing people against climate chaos, their activities look a lot like ours (though our people looked a lot nicer, me thinks). Imitation, I am told, is the highest form of flattery. So, though I was shocked, I was not complaining. At least not about the copying bit. What I am unhappy about, is Vattenfall declaring that they love the climate - while continuing to build dirty coal power plants. New coal and climate protection just don´t mix. P.S. Hier eine nette Imitation der Vattenfall Kampagne. Und im Moment sind auch mal wieder Vattenfall Märchen Tage ...

Donnerstag, 13. November 2008

Greenpeace goes Africa!

Finally! 6 years after the World Summit on Sustainable Development, during which Greenpeace also had a strong presence in South Africa, Greenpeace is starting "Greenpeace Africa" with three offices across the continent (Senegal, Congo and South Africa). Watch this launch video, with some fun footage also of 2002 when Desmond Tutu christened a Greenpeace boat ...
Greenpeace Africa: People, Action, Solutions from Greenpeace on Vimeo

Read the New York Times!

I love the Yes Men . Read their latest brilliant spoof. A New York Times from the future. A desirable future at that! I particularly like the headline: "Big Boxes Appeal Eviction from Low-Income Neighborhoods". I wish!
New York Times Special Edition Video News Release - Nov. 12, 2008 from H Schweppes on Vimeo.

Montag, 10. November 2008

Farewell, Mama Africa

I wish I had heard Miriam Makeba live. It´s too late now. Makeba is gone, forever. A wonderful voice. A voice against injustice and for freedom. A voice for humanity. Hear her sing and talk about Mandela here:

Freitag, 7. November 2008

Democracy is coming to the USA!

Thanks to my friend Toni for pointing out that Leonard Cohen´s ´Democracy is coming to the USA´ is really the soundtrack for November 4th 2008. And don´t you just love youtube. When you hear of a good idea, someone has already prepared the video. Have a look. This is a bit much hero worship for my test, but it´s fun all the same:

Donnerstag, 6. November 2008

Yes, we can make Obama into a progressive President! (Can we?)

I was right where the election was lost, in Ohio, in 2004. This time, I was nowhere near American soil - and my American friends won it. I sincerely hope there is no causal connection! Though, if there were, being stuck in Berlin while history was made across the pond might have felt a little less pointless ... No matter what, I am delighted that a new puppy is moving into the White House. May be it is the budding daddy in me, but I thought mentioning this gift to his children was one of the highlights in Obama´s eloquent victory speech. I had to earn my dog as a child too. But I only had to memorize a long name of a character in a Karl May novel, not endure my daddy being in campaigning mode for 21 months. For which I am grateful. Just as I am grateful, that we have at least 4 years of excellent sounding speeches from the American President to look forward to. It´s a relief to know that we will finally be rid of Bush´s nasal voice and instead will constantly have snippets of one of the most eloquent public speakers alive broadcast into our living rooms. Relief, indeed, is the strongest emotion I feel. Relief because America rejected the Bush years. Relief, also, because - after the experiences of 2000 and 2004 - I lived in constant fear that this could still go wrong. Even after the first results came in, I was a nervous wreck ... - Much has been written about how Obama won this race. How he energized youth, won over the Hispanic vote, got the full support of African Americans (which was not a done deal at all, given that he is by no means a typical African American!) and, last but not least, did better among white voters than Kerry did. As a campaigner, what has impressed me most is the professional brilliance of his campaigning style. Obama linked a very large narrative (´Change, Hope, The Refounding of the American Dream´), which he stuck to through thick and thin for the whole campaign, with an unprecedented local organizing effort. The world saw the big rallies. But Obama knows, that what really won this election were the many offices he opened all over the country; the little volunteer clusters he managed to create even in previously strongly Republican states (like Indiana!), the groundswell of support he built - everywhere. He had some support in this, of course. The unions, Move.On and others had been trying to build effective political machines since the 2004 race at least (and had had some first notable successes in the 2006 congressional elections). But Obama can still take most of the credit. As a Chicago inner city organizer, he was a disciple of Saul Alinsky, whose ´Rules for Radicals´ are still one of the best handbooks for local campaigners ever written. Now Obama turned lessons learned in local organizing, into a continent-wide political movement. He really did build his campaign, "block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand". - It is our task now, to use this groundswell of grassroots activists to put pressure on Obama! We need to use the same brilliant organizing skills to make the most of the political opportunity that the Obama victory represents. May be Naomi Klein is right when she asserts that "this election has proved, ... that the real middle is far to the left of its previously advertised address". But that, of course, does not mean that Obama will govern for the progressive end of America´s ´middle´. Obama has made some decent promises. But he has also had some pretty unhelpful economic advice; his foreign policy is still focused on exerting American power (though it will be interesting to see if he manages a new beginning with Cuba; 35% of Cuban-Americans backed him, so he has a mandate of sorts). Obama supports the death penalty, increasing domestic oil production, unsustainable biofuels and the coal industry, the biggest climate offender this planet knows. To make things worse, Obama, of course, will now come under immense pressure from the corporate sharks that made a killing under Bush and from the stronger than ever (if largely privatized) ´military-industrial complex´. To counter all this, we must ensure that the movement Obama built becomes a mighty and autonomous force, that, as Wallerstein puts it "will be pushing him, as president, to the left, both directly and via its impact on members of Congress. It is very difficult to say exactly where this force would push Obama. But its impact may turn out to be comparable to that of the so-called religious right on Republican party policies in the last thirty years." We know how much the religious bigots managed to achieve. If progressives can unite now, then: Yes, we can turn Obama into a progressive President. A man that delivers universal health care to all Americans; a man that gives back to America the right to form a union across the country; a man that turns around the juggernaut of rising CO2 emissions and cuts them by as much as the science demands; a man that gets Congress to support, through finance, an energy revolution in the developing world. - Dear American friends, I so wish I could have been with you to celebrate November 4th. Now, the real work begins. Obama´s victory was the necessary condition for change. But, as he said himself in the speech, it is very far from sufficient. "It cannot happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice", Obama says. He is right. But he will need to be reminded. Especially on the environment. For, as my friend Kenny says: "Compromise and unity are wonderful governing principles, unless they supercede the health of the planet, which is the foundation for all human well-being." Let´s get to work! P.S. For a far more sophisticated take on Obama, organizing and Alinsky, read on here.

Freitag, 31. Oktober 2008

Watch out for Coalfinger!

Dienstag, 28. Oktober 2008

Ani in Amsterdam - the best yet!

It sometimes feels like ani difranco and I have grown up together. We are about the same age and she (well, ok, her songs) have been part of my life since I was 18. Since then, there has been a continuing, if somewhat one-sided ..., conversation with chunks of Ani´s lyrics being associated with chunks of my personal history. Somehow our lives seemed to (more or less) run in parallel, personally and politically. She sang about the break up of her marriage just as I was going through a big and painful break up myself. And now that I am preparing to be a daddy, she sings about being and becoming a mum. Beautiful lyrics such as these, I would love to sing (if I could ...) to our little rebel while she is still disguising herself as a large and growing tummy: "you're gonna love this world/ if it's the last thing i do/ the whole extravagant joke/ topped in bitter sweet chocolate goo/ for someone who ain't even here yet/ look how much the world loves you." Ani can still rant and did so beautifully at the Paradiso in Amsterdam last night (dedicating the ranting to the late Utah Phillips). She dedicated one of my all time favourite poems - Coming Up - to everyone working on Barack Obama´s campaign. Read it and you may see why:

our father who art in a penthouse
sits in his 37th floor suite
and swivels to gaze down
at the city he made me in
he allows me to stand and
solicit graffiti until
he needs the land i stand on
in my darkened threshold
am pawing through my pockets
the receipts, the bus schedules
the matchbook phone numbers
the urgent napkin poems
all of which laundering has rendered
pulpy and strange
loose change and a key
ask me
go ahead, ask me if i care
i got the answer here
i wrote it down somewhere
i just gotta find it
i just gotta find it

somebody and their spray paint got too close
somebody came on too heavy
now look at me made ugly
by the drooling letters
i was better off alone
ain't that the way it is
they don't know the first thing
but you don't know that
until they take the first swing
my fingers are red and swollen from the cold
i'm getting bold in my old age
so go ahead, try the door
it doesn't matter anymore
i know the weak hearted are strong willed
and we are being kept alive
until we're killed
he's up there the ice
is clinking in his glass
he sends me little pieces of paper
i don't ask
i just empty my pockets and wait
it's not fate
it's just circumstance
i don't fool myself with romance
i just live
phone number to phone number
dusting them against my thighs
in the warmth of my pockets
which whisper history incessantly
asking me
where were you

i lower my eyes
wishing i could cry more
and care less,
yes it's true,
i was trying to love someone again,
i was caught caring,
bearing weight

but i love this city, this state
this country is too large
and whoever's in charge up there
had better take the elevator down
and put more than change in our cup
or else we
are coming

Aside from her powerful lyrics, what I love about Ani is that she is a true musician. She is constantly experimenting, enjoying the act of creating (she sang three songs I had never heard before last night .... Given that I have all her albums, that is saying something ...). She is capable of filling a room with her voice and guitar (and amazing picking technique!). But at the same time, she loves playing with ever changing band set ups. So, for the record, the concert last night was the best one I have heard (and I have heard at least 8). Here is one of the encores ... a beautiful tale of love entitled ´both hands´ (the video is from last night!). Enjoy:

Freitag, 24. Oktober 2008

Eine Welt. Eine Schule. UWC auf RTL!

Ich schaue nicht oft RTL. Aber gestern war ich begeistert. 1 Stunde lang berichtete RTL über das United World College in Amerika. Du kannst - und solltest - das Dir hier anschauen. Tina Ziemer (16), die noch bis 2010 das Glück hat eines der 12 United World Colleges weltweit zu besuchen, wurde eindrucksvoll portraitiert. Ihre Erzählungen versetzten mich zurück in eine andere Welt, Anfang der 90er Jahre, als ich selber Schüler am Pearson College in Kanada war. United World Colleges haben mich und mein Leben geprägt. Sie sind ein einzigartiger Ort wo Jugendliche aus aller Welt gemeinsam lernen. Sie sind ganzheitliche Schulen, an denen man eine prima Schulausbildung bekommt - gleichzeitig aber auch Sozialdienste macht und sich für die Gemeinschaft einsetzen muss. Das Leben an einem United World College ist unglaublich intensiv. Heute frage ich mich oft, wie das eigentlich sein konnte, dass ich an einem Tag, neben der Schule, auch noch den Müll unseres 200 Seelen Dorfes UWC recyclen konnte, auf dem Meer kayaken durfte und abends noch einen Vortrag über den Irak hören konnte. Und gleichzeitig, ganz nebenbei, noch ganz viel über mich und die Welt durch den Austausch mit Jugendlichen aus aller Welt lernte. United World Colleges prägen Leben. Gerade der Alltag mit so vielen verschiedenen Menschen prägt; das ständige Auseinandersetzen mit der Tatsache, dass wir Menschen doch ziemlich verschieden ticken. UWCs, wie wir sie abkürzen, sind aber noch viel zu wenig bekannt - gerade auch in Deutschland. Auch deswegen war der RTL Film so wunderbar. Mindestens drei Mal wurden die United World Colleges aktiv im Text erwähnt. Der Beitrag zeigt das UWC-Leben positiv als eine Mischung von Abenteuer und toller Schule. UWC, das zeigt der Film, steht für den Austausch zwischen Kulturen, für Sozialdienst, aber eben auch für viel, viel Spass und Lachen. Ich hätte gerne noch einmal die Chance ein UWC zu besuchen. Das wird nicht gehen. Dafür hoffe ich, dass sich dieses Jahr ganz viele Jugendliche unter 18 bewerben. Reich muss man dafür nicht sein. Alle Schüler werden ausgewählt und wenn nötig werden alle Kosten übernommen. Also: Weitersagen! Wer Jugendliche unter 18. kennt die an ein UWC gehören - Bewerbungsunterlagen gibt es hier!

Mittwoch, 22. Oktober 2008

Remembering Phil Clapp

Creating soundbites is a special skill. Talking about complex political matters in a manner that journalists understand; well, to be honest, it´s been one of my lifelong ambitions. One of the best people to learn this from was Phil Clapp. Yes, sadly, was. Phil died recently in Amsterdam. Too early; way to early. It´s difficult to believe that at the next big political meeting, he will not be there. Will not be calmly smiling into TV cameras as well as explaining to civil society colleagues how best to interpret the political results at hand. Phil and I didn´t always agree, for sure. But the thought of him not being there to bounce ideas off of is deeply saddening. The thought of him not being around when the United States finally reengages in the global climate negotiations in 2009 is more than that. It is troubling, as we would have really needed his calm, but determined, voice. Watch some of Phil´s soundbites - a fitting memorial to one of the best spokespeople the environment ever had - here:

Freitag, 17. Oktober 2008

Beim Klimawandel geht es ums Überleben, Frau Merkel!

Es ist schon pervers. Seit Jahrzehnten ist kein Geld da für das was wirklich wichtig ist. Die Entwicklungshilfe ist weit vom 0,7% Ziel entfernt; zum Schutz der biologischen Vielfalt fehlt das Geld obwohl ihre Zerstörung uns teuer zu stehen kommt; das Geld für eine Energierevolution fehlt - oder fliesst auch heute noch in fossile Energien. Geld aber ist da, wenn sich Banker verzocken und die Vorhersagen derer von uns, denen bei der zunehmenden Liberalisierung der Finanzmärkte in den letzten zwei Jahrzehnten zunehmend schwindlig wurde, wahr werden. Sicher, ein staatliches Eingreifen jetzt war nötig. Aber dies ist es auch für den Klimaschutz. Der Emissionshandel darf nicht aufgeweicht werden. Die EU muss bis 2020 ihre Emissionen zu Hause um 30% im Vergleich zu 1990 senken. Ohne wenn und aber. Und wenn sich die Industrieländer in Kopenhagen 2009 hinstellen und sagen, sie hätten kein Geld um erneuerbare Energien und Energieeffizienz in Entwicklungsländer zu fördern, dann wissen spätestens jetzt alle - sie lügen! Danke, deshalb, an die Klima Allianz und ein breites Bündnis von Gruppen für die Anzeige im Handelsblatt oben (durch draufklicken wird sie groß und lesbar!). Beim Klimawandel geht es ums überleben! Hier und hier könnt ihr aktiv werden - für ein EU Energie- und Klimapaket, das diesen Namen verdient.

Mittwoch, 15. Oktober 2008

Drill, baby, drill!

Dienstag, 14. Oktober 2008

Bruce does it again ...

The polls are looking better just now. But, man, I just wish I was where it matters. I wish, I was where I was 4 years ago - walking around endlessly in the streets of a marginal state, like Ohio. I wish I was doing the - still tough, as this New Yorker story shows- job of ´selling´ Obama to white working class Americans, like some of my best friends. Instead, I sit here, increasingly nervous, reduced to wearing an Obama button around Berlin. I only watch on youtube, what I experienced first hand in 2004. But, truth be told, that can be fun. In 2004, Bruce Springsteen gave the most moving speech I heard on the election trail. He was so obviously the better speaker than Kerry, that it was almost a little embarassing ... The Boss will not compete with Obama on eloquence (nor would he want to, I imagine). But he is once again speaking freely and beautifully as he travels the country to get out the vote. Watch it!

Noble Prize Blogger ...

This is the first time someone I read regularly gets the Noble Prize for Economics. So, if you don´t yet follow Krugman´s columns for the New York Times, now is a good time to start!

Sonntag, 12. Oktober 2008

Organic beer, Dutch and Swedish style ...

Call me an old fashioned Greenie. But I have to confess, I couldn´t believe my eyes when I searched for organic beers in a Coop store in Malmoe, Sweden, and the only beer I could find was in a can! I was appalled. Not just because beers just don´t taste right after being stored in a can. But also because it seemed just too ironic: an organic brew in environmentally most dubious packaging. But, of course, I was still curious to try (and there was no other store anywhere near the European Social Forum, that had brought me to Malmoe). I was also curious to find out whether Abro, the brewer, would justify the choice of their packaging on their website. They don´t.. I guess they don´t feel they have to, being Sweden´s oldest and largest brewing giant. Should I complain - or just be happy that such a mainstream firm has an organic beer in their range, I wonder!? - Abro describes their organic ´oel´ as ´discreet´; they somehow detect a flavour of citrus in their brew. Their ´discrete´, to be honest, struck me as simply bland. If you think Carlsberg is a decent lager, you might just like this beer. If you are a fan of boring - and slightly sweet - lagers, go for it. But if your taste is for real Pilsner, do not touch it (and not just because it comes in a can!) - Real Pilsner is also not something the Dutch are famous for (sorry). But the Brouwereij ´t IJ does make a fine one! It´s flavoursome, strong, and slightly bitter. It´s how a Pilsner should be. Their wheat beer is also special. It´s strong (7%) and, for a wheat beer, surprisingly somber and hoppy. Not just because of it´s high alcohol content, it´s not a beer I can imagine having a few of on a hot summer day. But it is a true beer experience, and a special, unique taste. It´s a treat; and just right for a dark autumn night in need of some spice. - Luckily, I have four more ´t IJ beers to try over the next few weeks. I got a box of six from my wonderful Greenpeace colleagues as a farewell present. Thanks, Nathalie. Cheers to the Hotel California!

Sonntag, 21. September 2008

Save Warrender Park Road Post Office!

When I lived where Rebus lives in Marchmont, Edinburgh, one of the many things I loved about the community there was the local post office. It was a place of community and chatter - and even when I sent very heavy parcels to Germany, I got a smile - and some extra beautiful stamps. I was thus shocked to hear, that this post office is under threat of closure. No way! That place is magic - and a lifeline for pensioners in Marchmont, in particular. Sign the petition against the closure here. I was amused to see, that there is already a youtube video to defend Warrender Park Post Office. Have a look, it's sweet:

P.S. Local sources inform me that the closure is now certain. Shame! Shame, shame, shame! Another example of simplistic economic logic wripping the heart out of a community ...

Mittwoch, 17. September 2008

Sticking to one's principles ...

It is a good thing to stand firm on what one believes in. But may be this shop in the Copenhagen train station is taking it a bit far. After all, "what doesn't bend, breaks" (ani difranco and, incidentally, all I ever learned in Higher Physics ...).

No. Never. Ever. ;-)

Dienstag, 5. August 2008

Busker with a cause!

Once upon a time, my sister and I were a winning busking team. We were young, cute and played quite well (she the violin, me the cello). This was the 80s as well. Heidelberg's pedestrian zone was full of American tourists (and soldiers) awash with money. And so, we earned well, playing simple songs over and over again. Once, I remember, we made 50 Deutsche Mark each in an hour. I recall, because this not-so-hard-earned cash was essential to me at the time. All my BAP vinyl's were paid for with this busking cash. BAP may have helped to turn me into the political activist I am now. But buying these records still felt indulgent when I came across Isla Ratcliff today. Isla is 11! And she is currently cycling (and busking) from Moscow to Scotland to raise money for street kids in Ethiopia. Where she stops, she busks. And the money, just like last year (see picture) will go to the Forum on Street Children, Ethiopia. Hats off, Isla. May there be many rich tourists willing to part with their money on the way to Edinburgh. And no punctures! P.S. Isla's dad does fine work, too. Check out his website.

Freitag, 25. Juli 2008

Obama (and me) in Berlin ...

The last time this many people had this much fun on the Strasse des 17. Juni was during the World Cup Final, I think. Yes, Obama got a popstar welcome. Yes, loads of people who came could utter the word "change" - and said that's what he stood for - but, really, had no clue about Obama's policies. They would have come to watch Madonna as well. Still, Obama was impressive. He was forced to speak at the Siegessaeule, not the Brandenburg Gate. And he even made that symbol count for his message of unity. "Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace.", he said. And it is a good line. There was much in his speech, that I did disagree with, for sure. His praise for an outdated NATO as "the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security" made me shudder. His take on history that sees the spread of freedom going hand in hand with open markets is not my view of the world, but rather that of his Chicago Boys. His balancing words of comfort for labor and the environment were comparatively vague: "Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet." Sure. When he spoke of the war in Afghanistan and the need for Germany to help, the crowd was silent - some booed. I am not opposed to Germany's involvement in Afghanistan in principle. But that Obama spent so much time on the need for excerting force in the world, well, it sounded like old-fashioned American foreign policy to me. The US will exert force. But it will do so a bit more multilaterally. It sounds like Kissinger and Clinton, not like a new dawn. - All that said - it was still a powerful speech. And - for a US presidential candidate, in any case - it was progressive. Obama should really get a prize for the most even-handed - and beautifully worded - 'China-bashing' ever when it comes to the issue of climate change: "As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.". That's powerful stuff. By mentioning Detroit he very cleverly suggests that China and the US are equally to blame for climate change - and yet he makes that claim look even-handed. Reality, of course, is different. It is the US, more than any country that needs to act - as no country on this planet has put more emissions in the atmosphere than the US of A. His commitment: "Let us resolve that all nations - including my own - will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere." is a significant step. If taken literally, it commits America to reduce its emissions by 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels - as Germany has pledged to do .... Well, good! - Obama was at his most powerful when he stood up against discrimination and for common humanity. On a street that the Nazi's had used for their shameful propaganda, it did send a shudder down my spine to hear him say: "Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?". The words: "The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down." are truly evocative - and couldn't be less like Bush. And his call for a nuclear weapon free world - which has not got much mention in the media coverage I have seen - was heartening. "This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons." Indeed! - So, all in all, this was a speech of promise. This was a speech signifying "change" - even if most people who listened could not spell out what that means .... You missed the speech? Watch it here:

Donnerstag, 24. Juli 2008

Lies, 2% lies and easyjet ...

They should really start a '2% polluters club'. Members can be all companies, governments and people who try to shift the blame for climate change onto others by claiming: "But we only contribute two percent". Tony Blair has been one of the pioneers of this approach. Ignoring that the vast majority of emissions historically comes from the G8 countries, he is fond of saying: "Britain is more than playing its part. But it is 2 percent of worldwide emissions. Close down all, all of Britain's emissions and in less than two years just the growth in China's emissions would wipe out the difference". So much for leadership, historical responsibility or, quite pragmatically, the need for the developed world to show countries like China that development and climate protection can go together. Right wing columnist have taken up Blair's 'two percent campaign'. But the aviation industry is this club's leader (and cheerleader). Ignoring the fact that emissions from planes occur so high in the atmosphere that they contribute to global warming at two to four times the rate of emissions closer to Earth (such as those from cars), they, too, scream at every opportunity: "Climate change can't be our fault, we emit only two percent". That already today means at least 4-8% of climate impacts (if you want to be conservative about it) - and airline emissions are rising fast. - Indeed, I wonder if they will form a three percent club, when the relentless and shocking growth in global air travel means that the 2% lie cannot even statistically be maintained anymore. - Always a market leader, easyjet has taken the 2% argument to new propaganda extremes. They are currently running an advertisement campaign on the back of their airlines seats spreading the "it ain't our fault" myth (see picture; aviation is the tiny column on the very left). I nearly fell off my chair when I saw it. It looks reassuring. It looks like, really, it's eveybody else's problem. But it is just as false as other claims easyjet makes, such as being more fuel efficient than other airlines, or that UK passengers pay more than the environmental impacts of their flights in taxes. The opposite is the case; aviation is subsidized to the tune of 9 billion pounds in the UK alone. - Whether or not we will be able to constrain aviation emissions will - much like the question of coal use - decide whether we can make the emission cuts necessary to prevent climate chaos or not. So it's time to call the bluff of the 2% club. Anyone can lie with statistics, but aviation is a problem - and easyjet is too. There is no way around this inconvenient truth - even when sitting back on an easyjet chair looking at those colourful ads ...

Bush's legacy ...

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency
Thanks to the Onion for this one.

Mittwoch, 23. Juli 2008

Decent organic beer from Spain to Switzerland!

You know that you have too much on your plate when you do not find the time to write about organic beer. Or at least that is the case for me. Thankfully, I have been drinking plenty - and sampling some new ones over the last few months as well. The most delightful beer experience was in Madrid (of all places), but Red has written all about that far more eloquently than I ever could. If you are ever in Madrid, do find the Naturbier brewery (nice German name ;-) ...) Red is standing outside of. It is well worth it! - If Spain can produce decent organic beer, it should come as no surprise that in German speaking lands, good organic beers are spreading a plenty. On a trip to Switzerland in March, I tried Naturperle, a beer from Appenzell, and found it delightful and refreshing. It is a light beer, so it should taste even better now in summer, slouched on a bench in a beer garden. It's the kind of beer that after a hot and sweaty day means instant relief and relaxation. - If you know me, you will know that I used to scream "Viva Chris Hani, Viva" (and the like) ... but that me uttering "Viva!" in relation to Bavaria is somewhat far fetched. But I have always admitted that Bavaria does have the best beers in the world (especially wheat beers). The "Viva Bavaria" brew by Riedenburger is no exception. In fact, it is exceptionally good and does deserve the 'Best of Bio' prize it won last year. Again, it is on the light, drinkable side, but with a strength of taste and falvour that the Naturperle can't quite muster. - This piece has lightness as its guiding thread ... and I am glad to report that, after the rye-wheat beer, I have managed to locate the new organic Pilsner by Stoertebeker breweries called 1402. It doesn't taste that old ;-). Rather, it tastes fresh and crisp. Of the beers presented here, though, it is my least favourite. For my taste, it is a little too light (or at least it was in spring when I tried it.) For the summer now, all three beers are highly recommended. And while the North Pole ice melts and climate change accelerates, there is at least one bit of good news to report: Organic beers are on the rise. And, by and large, they are pretty fine brews. I drink to that!

Dienstag, 22. Juli 2008

The Global Warming Swindle Swindle

The moment has been haunting me. A few weeks back, I saw the Global Warming Swindle DVD prominently displayed at my local video store. And I failed to say anything! I like the people behind the counter. They are poor wage slaves, anyway. They don't make the decisions about what gets displayed where. Rationalizations I can come up with a plenty. But: they are toss. There can be no excuse. It's moments of civic cowardice, like my silence, that make totalitarian regimes rise and thrive. It's silences, such as mine, that make rational people still believe that there is a debate to be had about climate change's existence. In reality, denying climate change today is like denying the Holocaust. It is just as false -and almost certainly more murderous. Climate change models do have uncertainties, for sure. But everything does! To not listen to climate science - and act on it! - is like not looking when crossing the road. You may overlook a car when you do. But to not do so, is simply madness. Even though, yes, of course, you can never be certain you will see all cars coming your way. (And I do realize that this analogy is, of course, completey inadequate: This example only kills you, if you are mad. But the madness of the climate deniers kills millions, and, worse, not usually them, but the poorest of the poor, especially in the developing world. Their irrationality is not just suicide, but, er, murder!) - I have to admit, when the Global Warming Swindle came out, I dismissed it. It was clearly the self-interested work of a man specializing in controversy at all cost. We had been there before with Against Nature. But when even friends started to ask me casually over lunch what I thought of "these prominent scientists who say that global warming is a hoax", I realized that I was wrong. Dangerously wrong. The real scientists, who had launched complaints against the Swindle's swindle, were right. And facts such as that 10 of the 16 interviewees for this Swindle film are associated with no less than 26 Exxon-funded groups to the tune of more than $11 million since 1998 do need to be heard at lunch tables around the world. - I identify, of course, with a desire, especially among middle-class intellectuals, to not give up debate. When based on a sceptical impulse, a determination not take anything for granted, that openness for debate is essential to democracy. But in the case of climate change, the democratic impulse gets turned on its head. It leads to a perception, even among those not denying climate change, that there is an "excessive consensus" in the media, when, in fact, the opposite is the case. The real, scary facts of climate change still, if anything, get underreported. Instead, the lunatics get a great deal of airtime. Just imagine that anytime someone claimed that cocain is dangerous, for example, the media felt obliged to also "put the other point of view" ... George Monbiot, I fear, is probably right when he argues that the scepticism - when it comes to climate change - is based on a much less laudible human desire: a psychological wish that all may not be as bad as it seems. "Faced with the overwhelming realities of climate change, people clutch at any reassurance. We want someone to tell us that everything will be alright, that we can carry on enjoying this marvellous feast of fossil fuels without adverse effects.". It is us, the (relatively) wealthy, educated middle-class, that will have to change most. It's us who have to give up holidays in far off places and invest our money in renewable energies rather than hand bags. We may not like that. Even I, clearly, do not always want to face up to the facts of climate change (but rather just quietly get a DVD on a Friday night). But unless we want to be knowingly complicit in murder, we have to act. Today, I will start by writing to my local video store about the Warming Swindle's Swindle. What about you? P.S. Great piece by the New Scientist on this issue here.

Freitag, 18. Juli 2008

Happy birthday, Nelson Mandela - the struggle continues!

Even if you have just spent a day there as a tourist: You do not forget Robben Island. Especially not, if you have had the privilege to tour the place with one of the ex-prisoners. I feel bad for having forgotten the name of the comrade who showed me around in 2002. But I do remember his detailed descriptions of torture - including electric shocks to his genitals. Harrowing descriptions, which left me speechless, angry, and awed all at the same time. He recounted the dehumanizing daily life in the prison calmly and without exaggeration. He admitted how hard it was, still, to live with those memories, burned into his body through physical pains he still feels today. - I am not at all sure, I could have forgiven the torturers and racists who presided over Robben Island prison. For having been able to do that - and inspire many others, like my guide, to do the same - for that fact alone, Nelson Mandela deserves all the praise that will be heaped upon him on his 90th birthday today. He is an exceptional human being, no doubt. He is an inspiration for all political activists, as he combines a firmness in principles and beliefs, with a thorough assessment of tactics, and a true humanity. - That said, the hypocrisy of everybody, including, say, Merkel and Bush, now falling over themselves to praise a man like Mandela, does sicken me. Merkel's party backed Apartheid. Much of the equipment, that was used to prolong Apartheid's unjust reign, was Made in Germany. In the eyes of the US, Mandela throughout the 80s and early 90s, was really just another bin Laden - another evil terrorist. Now, nobody wants to be reminded of this history, of course. Now, western leaders like to pretend that Mandela was a pacifist, like Gandhi, all his life. But that is not so. Aside from being a boxer, Mandela was leading an army when he was arrested. His study of tactics had convinced him, that there was no other way to bring liberation to his people. I personally think he was right. The ANC's armed struggle was an essential part of the successful decades-long struggle against Apartheid. It may make western leaders (and bleeding heart liberals) wince, but the violence before the healing and forgiving, that violence is also part of Mandela's legacy. On his 90th birthday we owe it to him, to remember all of his life, not just an edited version (as if made up by Hollywood). - Another part of the full story, of course, is the continued economic injustice (and xenophobia) in South Africa. Mandela, in the process of healing the nation's psychological wounds in the 1990s, was unable to shift the economic power structures in South Africa. In the pursuit of personal freedom for all, economic justice for all was sacrificed, delayed or, even worse, injustice cemented into the new era. The struggle for a just and free South Africa, therefore, continues. I like to think that Mandela recognizes that today. I like to think, also, that it will not be another 90 years before that struggle, too, is won. Happy Bithday, Mandela. P.S. And thank you for being Honorary President of the United World Colleges - as well!

Donnerstag, 17. Juli 2008

Wir scheissen Kreuzberg zu ...

Ich bin ein grosser Hundenarr. Aber Berlin leidet - mehr noch als andere Staedte - unter einer Lawine von Hundekacke. Mein Nachbar, der Restaurantbesitzer, bringt das Problem auf den Punkt:

Mittwoch, 16. Juli 2008

Activists released; time to investigate whaling fleet corruption - Greenpeace

They are out - for now. But the real scandal still needs to be investigated. For once, as I have been working hard on this in recent days, I take the liberty to just post a Greenpeace press release in full:

The two Greenpeace Japan activists, arrested and charged for intercepting a box of whale meat illegally smuggled off the Japanese whaling fleet, have been released on bail, after 26 days in custody. Late last evening, a panel of three judges in Aomori, Japan, granted the release of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, after an attempt by the local prosecutor to appeal the same decision made earlier in the day. Only 10% of bail applications are successful in Japan. The two will be reunited with their families later today. Their trial date has not yet been set.

“We are extremely relieved that our two activists have finally been released. However, our biggest question remains unanswered: why did the Japanese Prosecutor drop his investigation into the compelling evidence of whale meat embezzlement by whaling crew members brought to him by Greenpeace?” said Frode Pleym of Greenpeace.

Earlier this year, working from information given by former and current employees of whaling fleet operator Kyodo Senpaku, Greenpeace tracked the offloading of smuggled whale meat from the factory ship Nisshin Maru destined for crew members' homes. One of four boxes destined for the same private address was intercepted and the contents checked. This box, containing up to US$3000 worth of prime meat, but labelled as containing “cardboard”, was displayed at a press conference on May 15th, before being turned over to the Tokyo District public prosecutor, who suddenly dropped his investigation on June 10, the day the two activists were arrested. “We call on the Government to reinstate its investigation into the corruption in the whaling fleet,” said Pleym. “What Greenpeace has exposed points clearly to a very big scandal at Japanese taxpayers’ expense and in clear breach of international rules concerning Japans so-called scientific whaling programme.” Since the two activists were arrested, there has been a growing outcry over their detention. More than 30 non-Governmental organisations have signed up to a statement of concern. On Monday, Amnesty International sent a strongly worded letter to the Japanese Prime Minister demanding the release of Junichi and Toru. Nearly a quarter of a million people have sent a message to the Japanese Government calling for the two to be released and for a renewed investigation into the whale meat embezzlement scandal, this was backed by 35 protests at Japanese embassies and consulates in 31 countries.

For the full dossier on the whale embezzlement scandal click here.

Samstag, 12. Juli 2008

Mediaspree versenken!

Tomorrow, there will be a vote on the future of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain. One vision is that of the investors: Expensive offices and lofts and a sterile walk way along the river Spree. The other is a more messy, creative one. Loads of groups - from the far left to artsy, liberal architects - have come together to say: Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain is special. Especially due to its open spaces and diverse group of inhabitants. They say: We need change, but change that preserves that diversity. What we do not need is more O2 World's - and a bland, corporate landscape, as we can already witness, say, at Friedrichstrasse or Alexanderplatz. - I salute the great work that 'Mediaspree versenken', the local activist group, has done. Their 'boat protest' - as investors were visiting - is an instant classic. And this youtube video is also really good. Tomorrow, if you live in Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain: Ja zu A. Nein zu B. Und A bei C. Danke.

P.S. We won! This is first time Berlin stood up publicly and on mass against the corporate take over of its urban landscape. Brilliant! May there be many more such moments. Almost 90% voted against Mediaspree. That's a clear and unmistakeable signal to the local Greens and Left Party (who sadly backed the developers): Enough is enough!

Montag, 7. Juli 2008

G8 mermaid

The first crazy day at the G8 is coming to an end. It has been raining all day. But that's not the only reason why I wish I was in Thailand instead of this stuffy media centre. This year's summit is spread over several huge buildings (some of them with Disney-style restaurants. This is a ski resort after all!). Unlike at previous G8s, there is no real buzz. We NGOs are being kept far away from the media. Which is annoying: the media building 'proper' has all the free coffee, after all. And we can't overhear journalists saying "I need a comment on x" as easily as at last year's G8, for example. Mainly I would have loved to be in Thailand to meet the mermaid on the picture. Climate change will likely inundate it. If governments don't come to a decent agreement at another city famous for its mermaid. At Copenhagen in 2009! Thanks to Greenpeace Southeast Asia for this mermaid warning - on the road to Copenhagen! P.S. You can find more of my blogging from the G8 here.

G8 or bottled water - neither will save the world...

I hope my doctor doesn't read this blog. She ordered me to stay at home on Friday when I went to see her sneezing a lot and feeling that my head was going to burst. Yet here I am, in a strange ski resort in Hokkaido, Japan, trying to make sense of the weasle words with which the powerful try to hide that they have no answer to the problems we face. It's the G8. There was no way we were going to get someone else into the highly guarded media centre here. So here I am, wanting the world to at least know that, no, the G8 will not save the planet (unless they do all we demand here). My doctor will be pleased to hear, though, that I do try and look after myself. So, I try and drink a lot (and not beer this time). The first thing I did when I arrived at Sapporo airport yesterday was buy water. Which made me laugh. Here it was: The special G8 summit water (see picture). In a (non-returnable, obviously ...) plastic bottle. And yet, ready to save the world. You couldn't sum up the hyporcisy of the G8 summit much better, I thought!

Dienstag, 24. Juni 2008

Free Junichi and Toru

Sonntag, 22. Juni 2008

Sei teuer, sei schlecht, sei Berlin Stadtmarketing ...

Berlin hat sich fuer viel Geld ein total nichtssagendes Stadtmarketing geleistet. Unertraeglich ist das. Eine Verschwendung von Steuergeldern. Und die Sprueche - sei innovativ, sei Berlin - koennten sie sich echt sparen. Denn die Plakate sehen saulangweilig aus. Und bauen laesst dieses "kreative" Berlin 08-15-Muell. Wer anders leben will wird geraeumt. Auch von den Gruenen. - Nur gut, dass es schon erste Parodien dieses Stadtmarketingkrampfes gibt. Z.B. gegen die schandhafte Abschiebungsindustrie (siehe Bild). Hiergeblieben, sage ich! Deswegen unterstuetze ich seit Jahren Pro Asyl. Pro Asyl macht viel fuer MigrantInnen - mit wenig Geld. Das Berliner Stadtmarketing schafft wenig fuer Berlin - mit viel Geld. Shame! Shame, shame, shame ...

Montag, 16. Juni 2008

Obama's Chicago Boys

Obama's candidacy holds promise for the Left. But the battle over the economic policy Obama will implement should he reach the White House starts now. John Edwards must continue to stay involved in this debate to keep Obama as progressive as possible. And Obama needs some more progressive economic advisors! His "Chicago Boys" worry me. As they do Naomi Klein. Good on her for raising the issue. The Economist quite likes Obama's team. Need I say more?

Samstag, 14. Juni 2008

The REAL McCain

Mittwoch, 11. Juni 2008

Wakey, wakey!

It was hot yesterday. Even in pyjamas. Fitting, really, as we staged a pyjama protest here at the Maritim to wake up negotiators to the dangers of a warming world. There are only three days left to yet another two weeks of negotiations. And on too many issues, governments are going backwards or are stalling. Fights we fought years ago, when the Kyoto Protocol was being negotiated, are back (giving some of us a sad sense of deja-vu). Some, for example, are daft enough to suggest that nuclear power should be subsidized through the Clean Development Mechanism. Understandable, really. For the economics of nuclear power just don't stack up. But tiresome. Nuclear power, to put it mildly, simply will not deliver (anything but nuclear waste). And we really have better things to do than fighting that particular old battle all over again .... - Of course, not all delegations are to blame. It's the usual suspects - especially the US, Canada, Japan and - even under Rudd - Australia, that are the worst. The US, in fact, is being outright offensive. They, like other industrialized nations, have broken their promise made at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to transfer technology to the South. They have failed to put financial resources behind their rhetoric that they care about the need to adapt to unavoidable climate change. But when the developing world points out this failure and demands action, this is what the US replies: "the UNFCCC is a climate change convention, not a development aid convention." In other words: We do not care. I wish I was making this up. But they said it - and even circulated the statement in writing! - So, despite the heat, it felt good to give governments a wake up call. And many delegations seemed to like us more in pyjamas than in suits. Several came up to me in the corridors later to say that "we are awake now". Let's hope so. I, for one - after a night of doing ECO - need another coffee first ... (at least the coffee at the Maritim is fair and organic, unlike at the UN in Bangkok!)

Samstag, 7. Juni 2008

Kyoto in Bonn - again

It's Saturday, but the climate negotiations are going on as usual. And I am trying to remember how many days of my life I have spent at the Maritim in Bonn - in the name of the climate. Under the huge chandeliers of this boring, somewhat pretentious, hotel, it can be difficult to remember the reality of the climate crisis. The reality of floods, droughts or oil-polluted land - not of elevator music and 3 EUR coffees .... The reality of destruction, that we are here to remind governments of - and to force them to, at least, prevent from getting worse .... As I walk back and forth between meetings, I despair of the lack of urgency many government delegations seem to feel. It's then that I wish the Lifeboat we built here in 2001 would still be standing in front of the Maritim and remind governments of the urgent need - and popularity - of decisive climate action. - The Lifeboat was built by thousands who had all written their demands to governments on wooden planks and hammered them personally onto the boat. Once done, the Lifeboat was pushed all the way from downtown Bonn to the Maritim. Thousands were allowed into the UN security zone. And for days, government officials had to pass the Lifeboat as a memento, when they walked from room a to b. The Lifeboat, at least according to ex-environment minister Trittin of Germany, may have helped save Kyoto in June 2001, when that oil man from Texas had just announced that the US will not ratify it ... So imagine my delight yesterday, when I noticed that the UNFCCC secretariat has the plank we gave to the Chair of the climate talks back in 2001 with them to their temporary office at the Maritim. "Kyoto in Bonn" it says. And I must say, it looks as beautiful as ever. The plank reminds me of one of the most fun activities I have ever organized (I have a few planks at home as well). May it remind governments of what they are here for: action!
P.S. And here am I looking much younger in 2001 - proud to show off "my" baby

Mittwoch, 4. Juni 2008

More Greenpeace food!

May be I just wasn't paying attention. But it appears that Greenpeace is on the menu all over the world, not just at the Carnival of Cultures. The picture here was taken in Prague. Green Peace, this time, was a pasta dish; appropriately enough, this dish looks green - as it involves Spinach. I didn't try it (wanted to go for more local vegetarian food, such as fried cheese, yum ...). But I am starting to wonder where else I could, er, eat my employer. Let me know if you come across Greenpeace dishes through the comments function! Thanks!

Pizza go home!

It's almost time for EURO 2008 - and I am very much looking forward to it (though I haven't decided yet who I will tip for the title this time. Should I dare to go for Spain???). - Back in 2006, when Germany so dramtically lost against Italy, I was blamed by some friends. After all, I had dared to eat pizza before the match .... May be this take away in Prague (see picture) had similiar Pizza memories. Or just a bad dictionary. Either way, it made me laugh ... Not 'Ami go home', but Pizza. Poor pizza! P.S. I loved the EURO, especially the Kreuzberg atmosphere during the Germany-Turkey team. And I did dare to tip Spain for the title. And was right. Well done, Torres & Co.! The best team won. What a change, compared to 2004!

Obama is the candidate - Hillary must campaign for him!

Politics is about symbols. And Obama knows all about that. So he chose to cross the finishing line in St. Paul last night - at the very place, where Republicans will crown McCain as their candidate later in the year. It's finally down to Obama vs. McCain; it's finally time for the real race - the race for the White House. That is a relief. And yet, the key question remaining right now is whether Hillary means what she said in her strange 'I congratulate Obama and otherwise pretend nothing has changed'-speech in New York last night. "I am committed to uniting our Party, so we move forward, stronger and more ready than ever to take back the White house this November." That's how she started. And that does sound good. Hillary must do the decent thing now. Which is to endorse Obama and to campaign for him especially hard in the 19 states that she won .... Yes, she can.

P.S. Good on you, Hillary!
P.P.S. Now it's official. Hillary backs Obama. Thank God.

Dienstag, 27. Mai 2008

Earth to politicians: Quit coal

Great piece from the Inquirer.

Mittwoch, 21. Mai 2008

Albay Province (Philippines) quits coal!

Powerful words spoken by Brando M Sael. And, no, he is not a Greenpeace activist. He is Vice Governor of Albay Province in the Philippines: "We believe there is no place for coal in a world beset by climate change and certainly there is no place for coal in Albay". If only the alleged global climate leader, "my" Chancellor: Angela Merkel, would be so wise! - Hats off to Greenpeace Southeast Asia - yet again!

Dienstag, 20. Mai 2008

Bye bye Oliver Kahn

Back in 1984, I had a poster up in my room that simply read: "Arreviderci Kalle". Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was the hero of my youth. And he left me in tears that year as he deserted Bayern to join Inter. In retrospect, this was a good thing, really. It left me less distraught as I started to grow up and realize Bayern Munich's extremely close ties with the nasty Bavarian conservative party (CSU: they supported the Apartheid regime - among many other sins). My political awakening made me fall out of love with Bayern Munich. In general. But there were always Munich players, that I could not help but to continue to admire or adore. Mehmet Scholl, for example. Or, especially, Oliver Kahn, who finally retired last Saturday. Kahn's politics, too, are awful. He has said things about unemployed people, for example, that I'd rather not repeat here because they still make my blood boil. He has no sense of injustice in the world that does not involve a wrongly given off side or free kick. His whole personality is a billboard advertisement for mordern capitalism: Every vein in his body is about 'Leistung' and competition. And, yet - and yet: Kahn, without question, has been the best goalkeeper on this fragile planet. He has saved impossible shots. He was the one and only reason Germany reached the World Cup final in 2002 (and how ironic that he made a rare mistake in that final). He was simply fabulous. A true phenomenon. And consistently brilliant for 20 years. Indeed, I am among those 'conspiracy theorists', who feel that Kahn may have saved the day, if only he had been allowed to keep the goal in the fatal semi-final match Germany played against Italy in 2006 .... We will never know, of course. (And Lehmann is [was?] a fine keeper too ...). But what we do know is that (football) life will not be the same without Kahn. The world will be a little less colourful. The teams playing Munich will have a slightly better chance of scoring goals. - It's time to say Arreviderci, Oliver. I will not be putting up a poster in my room. I will just quietly pray that he uses his retirement to read up on what is wrong with this world. That he may put his deserved fame to some use. - Kahn revealed recently that he watches youtube videos of saves he has made before matches. So, enjoy these, Oliver. I am sure you have seen them before ...

Dienstag, 13. Mai 2008

Green Peace for sale at Berlin's Carneval of Cultures ...

It's easy to be cynical about multiculturalism. With benetton, Ford and many others all using people of different colour in ads to increase their global appeal; with lived cultures - not least through mass tourism - often being reduced to charicatures of themselves, it is easy (may be all too easy) to dismiss multi-ethnic cultural events as mere folklore without depth. For sure, at Berlin's mutlicultural festival, the Carneval of Cultures, you are more likely to drink Chinese beer than to discuss Chinese politics. Still, the Carneval is wonderful. Berlin, at first sight, looks 'white', especially compared to London, Paris or New York. But that there are vibrant African, Asian - as well as the better known Turkish and Kurdish - minorities in Berlin is something that's made visible by the Carneval each year. And, as the organizers claim, the Carneval provides a 'framework for multicultural initiatives' all year round. That, more than the colourful parade each year, is it's real value. - Plus, at the Carneval, every year, I gain some fun impressions. This year, I only managed a quick (and very tasty) West African lunch. But I still got a laugh out of the possibility, at the stall next door, of eating The Green Peace. For just 5 EUR, that sure would have been a bargain ...