Jan 312021
 

Somebody with an Algerian IP address has been trying to hack his way into this site. That’s a novelty. Ukrainian, US American, Russian and Indian IPs, sure – I’m used to them, but never Algerian. Is he trying to tell me something?

So what’s with Algeria? Well, for one thing, the country has had an excruciatingly bloody recent history. There are people out there, less well-informed than yourselves, who would echo a typically colonialist (frankly: racist) statement: “That just goes to show that Algerians are…” something-or-other. But you and I know that colonialism comes at a terrible price, for the colonised. Just how that price is paid, however, is less known to us; there seems to be a reticence to go into detail in our school textbooks.

So let me just start by urging you – imploring you – to watch the remarkable documentary Blood and Tears: French Decolonisation.

Like so many other former colonies, Algeria has not completely managed to turn a page. To quote one of the interviewees in the said documentary: “How can you turn a page that has yet to be written?”

For instance, the journalist Khaled Drareni was jailed last year and subsequently sentenced to two years’ imprisonment simply for covering protests in Algeria. This is yet another instance of attempts to throttle the press and hide information from us. Please sign Amnesty’s call to Free Khaled Drareni.

One of Algeria’s problems is that around here, we’re too Eurocentric to notice much outside our own garden. We simply don’t know enough. There are valuable sources, though, and I recommend two:

In “The Art of Losing”, the French novelist Alice Zeniter explores the fate of an Algerian “Harki” and his family after liberation in 1962. The novel earned her the prestigious Prix Goncourt.

Aljazeera’s in-depth analysis of current issues: Critics say the new constitution does not meet popular demands for an independent judiciary and empowered parliament.

Jan 312021
 

The word “transparency” is very much in vogue these days, particularly in the EU, which attempts to monitor financial transactions and disclose hidden accounts, for instance in tax havens. Personally, I would gladly see lightning strike all shell companies whose beneficial owners are filthy rich. We use the expression “filthy rich” when someone’s inordinate wealth may have been built on the backs of underpaid labour or thanks to otherwise unethical acts or un-exposed crimes, be they financial, environmental or political, crimes against humanity or disrespect of civil rights.

People like that tend to fiercely resist being exposed, and may go to extremes to silence whistleblowers.

Yes, the keyword here is “exposed”. Just by reading Wikipedia, we have no way of knowing whether for instance Elon Musk (the now richest man in the world) has played straight throughout his career. He is obviously very smart. Personally, I believe that Mozart – to pick a politically neutral example – should have been blessed with a beautiful palace and life-long comfort, although his remarkable brain was just a fluke of nature, presumably a mutation of some sort. In view of his extraordinary output, I would not have begrudged him wealth, which would have been deserved. Instead, he was destitute at his death.

Elon Musk, who has contributed significantly to innovation and technological development may, for all I know, be some kind of wizard, a techno-equivalent of Mozart. In Wikipedia, I see that he has been sued a number of times for his views and/or statements. He is certainly entitled to having and expressing views, even if I don’t like them. But has he played straight? Wikipedia does not tell.

So to my knowledge, no serious ethical wrongdoing has been exposed on the part of Elon Musk. Yes, again: exposed is the keyword. Is there any Navalnyj in the USA?

True, the USA had Edward Snowden. He exposed – revealed – that in his country (and many others, including mine) “big brother [NSA] is watching you [us]” (cf. “1984” by George Orwell).

No matter what country we inhabit, our futures depend on those who expose serious wrongs which may or may not be punishable by law. Laws are created by humans, who are not infallible. Legislators are informed by clerics, public opinion, pressure groups, powerful lobbies, etc. Legislators are only men, after all, and sometimes women.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely lack the skills to analyse anyone’s financial empire. Even if I had them, I would never be able to devote years of unpaid labour to such a pursuit. I have not personally witnessed the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in the Middle East and elsewhere. Even if I had, my indignant voice would not have been heard.

We, the general public, need – here, there and everywhere – to be informed of such wrongdoings so that we can demand whatever measures are necessary to put things right. That is what Democracy is all about, informed decision-making.

We need – here, there and everywhere – to protect those who expose serious wrongdoings and inform us of them. Some of them have risked everything to do so, for instance in Italy, where the Mafia still has vastly more financial muscle than the State, and in Russia, where the State and the mafia appear to be one.

We need – in my country and in yours – people
like Navalnyj,
like Julian Assange and
like Edward Snowden
to expose what you and me cannot see,
what media that depend on wealthy sponsors are unwilling to see.

We need them; we desperately need them. We need, in fact, more like them, not as presidents, not to govern our countries, but to expose and continue to expose what is terribly wrong.

And we need to defend them when they need us.

Jan 242021
 

I’m getting off the US’s back now. I’m hoping that after having agonised, day in and day out for four interminable years, over “how we got into this mess”, even the Democratic Party finally understands that Trump wasn’t its cause, only its regrettable result.

So I’ll cross over to another superpower: Russia. Not that Russia normally bothers me much – after all, Russia doesn’t call the shots, NATO does. Still.

But now, Russia is starting to bother me. I happen to like Navalnyj’s style, and I definitely don’t approve of killing political opponents, particularly not when the said opponents expose massive corruption – i.e. risk their lives by challenging criminal big shots. After he was poisoned, I angrily wrote that for Putin, killing political opponents seemed to be a “cup of tea” and fervently hoped health workers would be able to save Navalnyj’s life. They managed, and Navalnyj returned home to Russia.

… where he was promptly arrested.

Russia is starting to bother me.
Russia is starting to bother me in a big way.

Today, I read in the news that Navalnyj’s team has published what the Washington Post calls a “bombshell video” on Youtube, one that actually kicks Putin in the teeth.

Before I continue, let me introduce you, in case you don’t know it, to the little icon at the bottom right under Youtube videos. If you click this icon, you can chose subtitles + language.

So I looked for the famous “bombshell video”, but before I found it, I listened to Navalnyj’s own investigation into the attempted murder of his own person. This is terrific entertainment, mind you, and the translation is good:

FSB – murder attempted

Now for the kicking of Putin’s teeth. Here is a carefully prepared nearly two-hour long documentary, signed Navalnyj and his team, about how Putin became one of the world’s richest men. Two hours is a long time, but believe me, this is extremely interesting. I put to you that Mafia bosses around the world will seem like small fry in comparison. Again the translation is excellent:

Navalnyj’s bombshell video

Russia is not Putin and his gang, but 146 million people. I believe most Russians love their country passionately, I mean really passionately. Their country has been raped.

What about the prosecutors?
What about the judiciary?
What about Russia’s Federal Assembly?

Have they all been bribed?

СТЫДНО!

20 February 2021:

Bill Browder’s take on Putin’s wealth.

So who is Bill Browder? Well, apparently he’s quite a colourful character. I won’t tell you whether he is a good guy or a bad guy — personally I never trust financiers — but he is certainly more closely and unhappily acquainted with Russian powers-that-be than most.

Here is Wired’s take on the adventures of Bill Browder. Not boring at all, I assure you.

And here is the Huffington Post’s angry story about the demise of Sergei Magnitsky, Browder’s close associate; you know, the guy whose death triggered the creation of the Magnitsky Act.

From the above two linked articles, written long before Navalnyj hit the headlines, it seems clear that Putin is an extortionist who spares no effort to increase his wealth, and that murder is truly a cup of tea for him. It would thus appear that the President of Russia is a rapacious predator.

And if you feel like practicing your Russian, here is a very good place to start: The Insider. If you prefer to get a peek behind the scenes, but in English go here: https://theins.ru/en

Jan 092021
 

Two days ago, I wrote of the challenge facing the Democratic Party if Georgia granted it the two seats it so sorely needed in the Senate. Georgia did just that! Georgia’s blacks and Georgia’s young had mobilised and saved the day for the Democratic Party. What a tremendous debt that party now owes Georgia!

Later in the day, after I had written “Georgia on my mind”, checking the news again, I saw that something was snapping in Washington D.C. where thousands and thousands of Trump supporters had congregated, swarming, at Trump’s instigation.

Over the past years, Trump has been using Fox News, Twitter and other outlets to foment hatred and rabid attitudes, as well as weird ideas among certain emotionally and educationally vulnerable segments of the US population. I cannot tell you – because I do not understand – what Trump-loving evangelists have in common with laid-off rust belt workers and depressed opioid addicts. Apparently, Trump whispers falsehoods in all of their and many others’ ears, such as those of the disenfranchised so-called “working middle class”.

No wonder, then, that his thugs actually stormed and vandalised the seat of the USA’s national assembly, its congress, lovingly referred to by the population as Capitol. They did so to obstruct Trump’s opponents. (Trump, of course, will have his own reasons to dread leaving the White House.) Legislators were rushed off to safety by the police and none of them were harmed, as far as I know, except by an inrush of Covid-19, which may of course yet kill some of them.

There is no doubt that Trump is directly and fully responsible for the mob’s storming and vandalising of Capitol. Many of his supporters will, however, be saddened and shocked. BUT they may nevertheless continue to idealise their hero until they can find someone to replace him. I believe it’s important to realise that Trump is seen by many as some sort of Wat Tyler, or even as God’s special envoy. Indeed, many of the people who believe in him have much in common with 14th century British peasants.

Unlike Wat Tyler, however, Trump is anything but an oppressed labourer. He and others who will turn up in his wake – super rich and callous – will continue to discombobulate the emotionally and educationally vulnerable for their own ends.

President elect Joe Biden has since held a forceful speech about the “rule of law”. He chose his words well, and his majesterial speech offered disconcerted US Americans a chance to believe once again in the greatness of their country. But I fear that the expression “rule of law” means little to the country’s more poorly educated citizens. In a land that used to boast that anybody could become president, that used to pride itself on being meritocratic, there is much undeserved poverty and hopelessness, much fear, much understandable anger, much corruption, and much untreated physical pain.

Something snapped in Washington D.C. That snap was just a warning, but there may still be time to put things right.

Jan 062021
 

Dear friends

Never before have I prayed for the Democratic Party – to be honest, I never pray at all – but now I am praying passionately for the Democratic Party. Mind you, I don’t like or trust the Democratic Party anymore than I like or trust Jeff Besos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page. The Democratic Party has failed in every conceivable respect, but its voters include most of the USA’s great scientists, artists, computer experts (including hackers, and I have a penchant for hackers) and voting Blacks (though I deeply sympathise with non-voting Blacks).

Reading the News this morning, I almost choked. There is actually a glimmer of hope! If Georgia salvages the Senate for the Democratic Party, there will be no fucking excuse – none! – to fail, once again, the poor, the disenfranchised so-called “working middle class” and the Blacks. In fact, if the Democratic Party wins the Senate, their politicians will have their once-in-a-lifetime chance of showing Trump’s voters that they, not Trump, can and will improve conditions for life and work in, e.g. the Rust Belt.

At the risk of counting my chickens, if the Democratic Party wins but fails to do its duty by the 50 % of the USA’s population that owned (even before Trump!) less than 1 % of the country’s wealth and the 89 or so per cent that owned (before Trump!) only 10 % of it, there will be hell to pay not only for the Party and its long-suffering country (that is already paying a great deal), but for all of us. The rest of us will see the final disintegration of a country that claimed to be, but was so evidently far from, a bastion of “Democracy.”

I write this expecting some gruelling hours and probably even days of suspense for Georgia.

Let us all cross our fingers.