1935 or 1957?

Drawing parallels between the current situation in the Crimea and the reincorporation of the Saarland into Germany is unavoidable: in both cases a plebiscite with overwhelming support for reincorporation was followed by the actual moving of borders.

The question is, however, are we looking today at a situation like the first reincorporation of the Saarland in 1935 (followed by the occupation of the Rheinland in 1936 and the annexation of further ethnic German territories in 1938/39, all part of a design aimed at further conquests) or will it be more like the second reincorporation in 1957 (with the result that France and Germany started to peacefully coexist again)?

12 years after the second Pearl Harbor

9/11 has often been called “the second Pearl Harbor” and while the term was coined to evoke patriotic emotions, it also evokes the question how much of the behind-the-scenes part of the two events are similar?

Thanks to democratic societies’ insistence on unsealing classified documents after a certain number of years, today it’s publicly available information that the US government not only knew about the planned Japanese attack in advance, they were actually planning a response ahead of time.

Just a few direct quotes:

Ernest Johnson, late October 1941: “the Jap fleet has moved eastward, presumably to attack our fleet at Pearl Harbor”.

November 3, 1941, telegram from Tokyo ambassador Joseph Grew to Washington: “an armed conflict with the United States may come with dangerous and dramatic suddenness.”

George Marshall, Chief of Staff, November 15, 1941, at a secret meeting with reporters: “We are preparing an offensive war against Japan”.

November 25, 1941, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, regarding the Japanese attack expected in the near future, perhaps as soon as the following week: “The question is how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves”.

Pay or die

“Money talks”

This is a horrible example of how low the Western World has sunk in its reckless greed… the lives of millions be damned if it means less profit.

The trial started yesterday in Pretoria. 41 international pharmaceutical concerns filed a lawsuit together against South Africa. Why? Because in 1997 the South African government passed a new law about the import and local production of cheap generic drugs. The gold-blinded, saliva-dripping greed of Western corporations sees nothing else in it but a “violation of patent laws”, even though the one and only reason for this law was the intent to save lives – millions of lives.


The facts

From the total 36 millions of AIDS-infected patients on this planet, 25 millions live in sub-Saharan Africa. In this poorest part of the world, 2.4 million people died of AIDS last year. While in the Western World expensive new drugs greatly lowered the death rate of HIV positives, those in the third world are sentenced to death as they don’t have enough money to pay the outrageous prices of this profit-driven industry.

For millions in South Africa, this law that allows the import and local production of cheap imitations of brand products is the only chance for survival. If the Western bullies win, these people lose all hope for a recovery. Their only prospect is a slow and painful death.


Apartheid – this time from abroad?

In the decades of white apartheid, most of the Western World didn’t pick at South Africa for having a government that violates the human rights. Now, with a black government that would like to do something for the people, the Western World – the white man’s world – steps in. Yesterday it was pirated software (see more here), today it’s violated patents, tomorrow it’ll be who knows what – only one thing remains constant: the basically false opinion of those 5% of the world’s population who are best off and think they should boss around the other 95% who are much worse off – mostly because these 5% have robbed them blind these last few centuries…


“Don’t eat our national mascot!”

A couple of weeks ago there was a petition to the Swiss “Bundesrat” (the governing body of Switzerland), signed by some 11’000 people around the world, demanding that Chinese people mustn’t eat the meat of Saint Bernards any more. Why? Because it’s the national mascot of Switzerland. According to petitioners, Chinese who are craving the meat of these dogs are “abominations of humanity” and shouldn’t be allowed to live out their “dark desires” for such “evil pleasures”.

When searching the web for a picture of a Saint Bernard for this article, I found an older news report about the same topic, maybe the very one that triggered this petition. You can read it at the European Vegetarian Union’s homepage.

This is what a Saint Bernard looks like (picture taken from the link above)


Democracy: the magic is in the numbers

That vegetarians lobby against consumption of any meat is understandable. The trouble begins with this petition – the amount of collected signatures versus the measures it demands. 11’000 persons signed a petition that wants to force over 1’000’000’000 – a billion – people to do the bidding of these 11’000. That’s a ratio of roughly one vs one hundred thousand. No true democracy can even think about such demands in earnest – once it does, it’s no democracy any more. Only a totalitarian dictatorship would consider to force the will of so few upon so many.


“What, this is your holy animal? How funny.”

But the worst in all this is the reasoning behind the whole petition: Chinese people shouldn’t be allowed to eat Saint Bernards because this dog is the national mascot of Switzerland and deserves respect for this.

Time for a U-turn. For the Hindu religion, the cow is a holy symbol. This time we’re not talking about emotions or national pride – we’re talking about a religion and what’s holy for nearly a billion people. Ethically seen, that should weigh a lot more.

Imagine a minuscule percentage of these people – say, 0.1% of them – would sign a petition that people in the Western World shouldn’t eat beef any more. We’re speaking about a theoretical petition signed by a million people, not just 11’000.

What would happen if such a petition would indeed come to life? What would you say if some “ragtag brownskins from the third world” would try to forbid you to eat beef ever again? Would you want to miss out on your roast beef, beefsteak, entrecote or hamburger even once, save for ever?


Righteous or self-righteous?

If a handful of first worlders want something and the billions of third worlders have to bow to their whims, it’s not a free world any more.

Before signing such a petition, people should think twice – whether they truly want to go down the same path as the Crusaders, the Conquistadors and the Nazis before. Do they really think there is no other way to defend the rights of animals but to defy the rights of human beings in the process?

Black target

Monopolies hunting down the “modern Robin Hoods”

I encountered this article on The Register back in February, 2000. To summarize it, Microsoft has been demanding the imprisonment of Mohamed Suleiman, managing director of a Kenyan PC OEM called Microskills. Why? Because his company has been loading pirate copies of MS products on PCs it shipped. MS demanded besides the imprisonment – of course – $$$, in this case some half a million USD.

In Kenya, 9 out of 10 software packages are pirated (BSA estimation). Why? Not only do people have a ten times lower income as in Western countries, the software itself costs more in absolute terms than in the US. Would someone demand $700 from you for an MS Office 97 Standard, you’d probably hold off on purchasing the software. Add the factor 10 for comparison to see what this price really means for the average Kenyan, and ask yourself if you’d ever pay US$ 7’000 for any office package. Especially if the average computer (once again taking the same factor 10) would make your purse lighter by some US$ 20’000.

In my opinion, not the Kenyans are the unlawful pirates but the company pushing such prices upon them is the bandit itself. While the average Kenyan software pirate might break the precious Western laws (made by Western people for Western people), the Western company robbing the already poor people blind is breaking the greater laws of ethics.


Robbing the robbed

For me, this ruthless business practice of an already rich company taken against an essentially poor country (made poor in the first place by the same Western society) is simply unacceptable.

Visualize following: there’s a fat man sitting at a table, stuffing himself like an animal from half a dozen large bowls simultaneously, shoveling the food into his mouth with both hands like an excavator. Then suddenly a small piece of food is falling out of one of the bowls, upon the floor. A skeletonlike man who has felt Famine’s hand for too long happens to come by, picks up the food and eats it. The fat man is jumping up from the table, kicks the starving man’s head several times and shouts for the police. You pass the scene at this moment, what would you do? Especially if you consider that there has been a lot of well-fed men dropping by earlier on and taking out large pieces of food from the bowls on the table?

Because software piracy is something that occurs more often in Western society, if you take the absolute numbers instead of misleading percents. Even if 90% of all users have a pirate copy in Kenya, their total number is but a small percentage of the number of users owning a pirate copy in any single Western European country, or, for that case, in the US. And piracy in the Western countries isn’t just done by end users. No, big OEMs have been doing it for years as well.


What about the real culprits?

I bought a PC back in 1994 from one of the largest Western European manufacturers and it came with three Microsoft software packages. Although there have been certificates, there weren’t any manuals nor any media included. I first contacted the reseller but they couldn’t help me at all as they got the PCs from the manufacturer with the programs preinstalled. I then contacted the local MS office. Do you know what Microsoft Switzerland told me? They can’t help me and it doesn’t concern them at all! The same reckless company who is hunting down “pirates” in the already stripped-to-the-bone third world, doesn’t care about the same piracy if it’s done in one of the wealthiest countries of this planet!

I can’t help but fully symphathize with the decision of the Nairobi Commercial Court, whose extraordinary dismissal decision put MS on the losing side this time. Suleiman called the ruling “a victory for morality against the unethical mercenary tendencies of a greedy multinational that thrives on bullying tactics.”

Just this one time, the story had a happy end. But it was sadly the exception, not the rule.