... in politics

Dennis for President (of the US of A)

03 Dec 2007 | 172 words | united states politics elections lebanon

Most people probably have never heard about Dennis Kucinich who seems to be running for the Democratic party’s ticket to run for President of the United States of America. However it seems that he is the favorite candidate of my much respected left-wing friends in the US (or at least some of them).

Not sure if he really makes a chance but he sure is special. If you believe his website he is some modern day jesus, only better:

In Lebanon, Dennis and Elizabeth also spent time walking through destroyed towns and villages, over land mines, cluster bombs and missiles, listening to the heartbreaking accounts of death and destruction while at the same time being told time and again about the desire for peace.

If you ask me, walking over land mines, cluster bombs and missiles is at least as impressive as walking over water and it is probably better to vote for this dude than for people who’s idea of making the world a better place comes down to invading Pakistan.

I love life...

06 Jan 2007 | 215 words | beirut lebanon politics branding dead people

Is the PR campaign by the march 14 camp against the ongoing demonstration by the opposition in downtown Beirut. They argue that the ongoing protests are strangling Lebanon’s economy to death and because of that those who love life should rally behind them (the slogan also is a reference to the martyrdom culture entertained by Hezbollah). These days large parts of the city are covered with i love life stickers (in arabic, english and french) and there are i love life x-mas trees at random locations. This afternoon in cafe De Prague in Hamra, someone had this cigarette box:

The sticker on the left reads i love life in arabic and the text on the main part (كلنا للوطن - we are all for/to the nation) are the first two words of the national anthem. Makes a nice contrast with the rest of the worlds obsession to put warning labels on cigarette boxes.

Of course this focus on loving of life does not mean that the good old Beirut tradition of sticking portraits of dead people to the walls has suddenly disappeared. People simply started to combine their admiration for life and for the dead:

In this case the dead man is Pierre Gemayel, the former industry minister, assassinated on the 21st of november 2006.

Dutch über alles!

Got reminded again that the Netherlands have turned into a society of discussing racist cowards less then 10 hours after arriving back back in amsterdam. on the front-page of todays Volkskrant there is an article titled ‘Verdonk: op straat alleen Nederlands‘ (link requires paid registration). In English this translates into ‘Verdonk: Dutch must be spoken in the streets’. Apparently the minster for ‘integration’ has completely lost her mind (not that this is any news). The local website for english speaking non-dutch speakers has the following summary the speech given by the minister last weekend:

Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk favors the introduction of a code of conduct for the public to emphasize Dutch identity, including speaking Dutch in the street

I really do not know what to say about this. What about the fact that the Netherlands have been in the front line for criticizing the turks for not allowing the kurds to speak kurdish in public for a long time? They even made this a requirement for Turkey in order to start membership talks with the EU. does that mean that the Netherlands should be kicked out of the EU?

And why would any sane individual want to have more Dutch spoken in the street anyway? It is one of the most ugly sounding languages in the whole universe (if in doubt try travelling in the bord-bistro of a sunday evening berlin amsterdam intercity train). I would rather listen to anything expressed in Arabic or Tamazight (the two languages that Verdonk really wants to ban with her stupid proposal).

Women empowerment

16 Dec 2005 | 94 words | politics public transport bombay india

So apparently the government of Maharashtra (the same idiots who came up with the brilliant idea to rename Bombay into Mumbai) thinks it can improve the position of women by stenciling ‘women empowerment’ on the back of every second rickshaw in the state (the other half has ‘if a girl studies progress will happen’ stenciled on them in Marathi). To me it is not really clear how this is going to work, and most of the time the inside of the rickshaw makes it even harder to believe in this kind of symbolic politics:

Protect intellectual property rights by all means necessary?

07 Aug 2005 | 673 words | copyright european union politics

Maybe i have been a bit premature in my condemnation of the French and Dutch no votes on the European constitution back in June. The charter of fundamental rights that is part of the proposed constitution contains an article relating to intellectual property rights. In all its simplistic beauty article 17(2) reads like this:

Intellectual property shall be protected

Yes this is it. No qualifications whatsoever, No purpose (‘for the progress of science and the useful arts’) like in the US constitution. If this constitution gets enacted in Europe intellectual property rights will be ‘fundamental rights’ and have to be protected by all means necessary.

Now i had come across this clause earlier, but for some reason it had been amused by what i then perceived as it’s nativity. Not so anymore:

On the 12th of july the Commission of the European Union launched a new proposal for a directive and framework decision on the penal enforcement of intellectual property rights. This directive seeks to harmonize legislation in the member-states regarding IPR infringements. It calls for substantial criminal penalties for intentional infringements of intellectual property rights on a ‘commercial scale’. Article 3 of the proposed Directive reads as follows:

“Member States shall ensure that all intentional infringements of an intellectual property right on a commercial scale, and attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements, are treated as criminal offences.”

The obvious problem with this article is that ‘attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements’ is an awfully vague definition of possible criminal behaviour. It does not take a lot of imagination to see the entertainment industry trying to force file sharing services out of business because of them providing aid to the intentional infringement of their users. This goes way further than the recent grokster ruling of the US supreme court which comes down to that a provider of a service that allows infringing uses can only held liable when this infringing use is part of his business model or endorsed by the provider. Under the proposed EU the motives of a service provider seem to be completely irrelevant. It is enough if the service is aiding intentional infringement that is taking place on a comercial scale. As comercial scale is not defined as something that is undertaken by comercial entities for profit it probably also encompasses large scale infringement that is taking place on all mayor file sharing services (also see the last EDRI-gram on this issue).

While this directive will not automatically become law in its’s present form (as Urs Glasser points out in his blog) it is interesting to see how the commission justifies coming up with this directive in the first place: Apart for pointing out that the divergent practices of the member states need to be harmonized (which is the raison d’être for most of the commissions legislative work) the commission refers back to Article 17(2) of the proposed charter of fundamental rights:

This Directive respects fundamental rights and observes the principles recognised by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In particular, this Directive seeks to ensure full respect for intellectual property, in accordance with Article 17(2) of the Charter. (point 5 from the introduction of the proposed directive

For the casual reader this gives quite and amount of legitimacy to the proposed directive. Suddenly there is a fundamental right that needs to be protected. How can anybody in her sane mind have any objections against respecting the fundamental rights of the EU? Of course protecting our fundamental rights requires swift and immediate action!

I guess that makes clear that we do not only have to fight against this particular directive, but that we also need to turn more attention to the EU constitution once it will be revived from the dead (which will happen sooner or later). In the meanwhile someone should point the Commission to the fact that the constitution has been voted down by two member states and that they should stop making references to non-existing and dubious fundamental rights.

What the visa?

Today i soend most of my day trying to get a schengen visa for programmer/activist from cote d’ivoire and that meant i had to make lots of phone calls to cote d’ivoire and while doing that i dialed wrong numbers a couple of times.

Now if you dial the wrong number locally people are usually pissed that you disturb them. not so in this case, each time i got connected with someone wrong, the people started me asking all kinds of questions about me or amsterdam or what i was wearing (sic!) and generally tried to keep me on the phone for as long as possible which is a pretty interesting way of wasting your time… Much better than talking to the people you really need to talk to as the staff of the belgian embassy in abidjan is extremely not-funny, inflexible, rude (they hung up on me twice) and non cooperative when it coes to getting a visa on time.

Bottom line is Yapi won’t come to what the hack, because the Dutch don’t know where their embassy is (they send him to the embassy in Ghana where he was told that instead he should have gone to the belgian embassy in abijan) and the Belgians are rude, not-funny and not felxible at all…

Mit dem zweiten sieht man besser

11 Jun 2005 | 39 words | berlin xenophobia politics migration

Kanak-Attak has started a beautiful poster campaign against the practice of expatriating immigrants with german passports when they also hold another nationality (passport). The campaign uses a slogan and the look and feel of the german television station ZDF.

R.I.P Samir Kassir

03 Jun 2005 | 485 words | beirut lebanon security drone wars politics syria

Today i am back in Beirut. In the morning we met with the Hezbollah (i was still getting SMS straight from the ‘zionist entity’ while sitting in their press room), but talking to them did not make them any more sympathetic. The guy got himself in rage about Israel and how they had every right to defend themselves against Israeli aggressions, but instead of stopping there he then started to explain us how we (the Germans) were also victims of them as ‘they (Israelis) made us (Germans) responsible for the holocaust which has never happend’. when told that we did not see this this way he referred to ‘a book by an French professor’ that he had read but whose name he had ‘unfortunatly’ forgotten that would prove that the ‘holocaust never happend or at least was much smaller than they say’. yuk! This contributed to the resentment that had been growing in me after yesterdays visit to the south (Hezbollah country) where the mood was really depressing which at least for me was largely the result of the excessive presence of bearded men on all kinds of posters and billboards. (something that at first had appeared as a welcome change of scenery compared to the visual Hariri onslaught in the rest of the country. (between Nabatiye and Sour i did not spot a single Hariri poster). It does however seem that the posters help winning the elections in Beirut Hariri won all 19 seats and in the south Hezbollah and Amal are projected to win almost all 23 seats on stake in Sundays election round.

The unfortunate encounter with political Islam was soon pushed to the background when the news broke that Samir Kassir had been assassinated when a bomb detonated under his car seat just after leaving his apartment in Ashrafiye in east Beirut earlier that morning.

On June 2, 2005 Lebanon’s prominent journalist and historian Samir Kassir was assassinated. Kassir was a dedicated, vehement and eloquent critic of Syria’s presence in Lebanon, its security apparatuses and its Lebanese collaborators. from indymedia beirut

While i had not heard of him before suddenly everybody (ok i guess minus the Hezbollah) who we had met had connections with him ranging from personal friendships to working relations (the ladies from ‘un mémoire pour le avenir whom we had met on Tuesday evening were apparently some of the last persons to meet him on Wednesday). The somehow ironic fact that Samir who – as everybody was telling me – had been a very vocal critic of the Syrian role in Lebanon for quite a while had been assassinated by the Syrians (at least that is what everybody thinks) after they had left the country has had quite a devastating effect to everybody i spoke to during the day. Most people were wondering if ‘this was ever going to end’ end seemed extraordinary disillusioned by what had happend.

Welcome to Israel!

02 Jun 2005 | 400 words | lebanon israel border mobile networks politics

Today we went to the South of Lebanon, the part that is officially referred to as the liberated zone. This is the area that was controlled by Israel – through the south Lebanese army – until they were forced out by continuing casualties inflicted upon them by the armed wing of the Hezbollah in 2000. after visiting Beaufort castle, a former crusader castle overlooking most of south Lebanon, the Golan and parts of Israel, that was used by the IDF during the occupation as a military base and a former torture center run by the SLA for the IDF we went to the border between Lebanon and Israel just outside the northernmost Israeli settlement. The border itself is quite unimpressive and the IDF seems to keep itself out of sight deliberately in order to not provoke the Hezbollah loyalists on the other side. what is most notable is the obvious abundance of water on the Israeli side that supports extensive farming in stark contrast to the dryness of the land on the Lebanese side of the fence. While being at the border i started to receive welcome SMS messages form Israeli network operators. First four messages from orange Israel

Orange welcomes you to israel. you can now dial 1233 to listen to your voicemail and 1200 for your home customer service. powered by starhome.

and later a whole array of messages from Cellcom Israel.

welcome to cellcom. To listen to your voicemail just dial 1233 , and for your customer care 1200, as you do in the Netherlands! Enjoy your stay in Israel.

It is not unusual to receive such messages well beyond national borders but in the European context this does not really mean anything as borders in the frequency spectrum obviously do not adhere to the lines drawn on maps. but when you are standing in front of a border fence that is obviously designed to keep you out being surrounded by posters glorifying the acts of martyrdom committed against the Israeli occupation forces it is rather bizarre to be welcomed and asked to feel at home by an operator from the other side of the fence. even more disturbing is the fact that Cellcom kept sending me welcome messages long after we had turned north again. The last message arrived at my phone more than 24 hours later while eating lunch in restaurant du Chef in Beirut….

How to email the Hezbollah?

01 Jun 2005 | 158 words | lebanon social media politics religion security

Before meeting with a PLO representative who runs a youth center in Shabra. we had to send scans of our passports to Hezbollah so they could run a background check on us before our visit with one of their media representatives on thursday. After having had our passport scanned at an internet cafe in Beirut’s hamra district we were supposed to send them to a given @yahoo.com email adress. But how do yo write an email to hezbullah, how do you start? ‘inshallah’? ‘grüss gott’? in the end we settled for ‘to whom it may concern’ still asking ourselves if it would be wise to send this email via my work smtp server to an Hezbollah email adress that is registered with an US provider. In the end i never send the email as the uplink was way to slow for sending 9 passport scans and a journalist friend offered to send the files from his home instead.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: