Archive for March, 2013


The Phone Not Taken–and a Modest Proposal

Something everybody should do once in a while is taking a free day in the middle of the week. The people one meets belong to two main categories: those who have no work, and therefore very little money, and those who have too much money, and therefore need not work. It is the world neoliberalism would have: one of absolute disparities. Retired people, bled dry by Danish prices and property taxes, walk slowly around in old clothes, looking at shop windows; meanwhile, trophy wives in mink furs happily hop from hairdressers to peddlers of foie gras sandwiches, concept furniture, ethnic trinkets, designer clothes and lamps.
Businesses are divided too: there’s the normal and the Frederiksberg type (Frederiksberg is a low-taxation enclave in the middle of Copenhagen where the urban rich tend to live; it has the highest density of this kind of businesses, but they can be found in every fancy area of Denmark). Normal shops struggle to stay open, in central Copenhagen, trying to offset rentals starting from 3000 € a month by selling cheap crap for quick cash some 10 hours a day. Frederiksberg Shops are owned and fully paid for by rich people, and used not so much as a source of income but as a means to claim that they, too, work, and are therefore not akin to the disgusting crowd of the unemployed. They can easily be recognized, aside from the bizarre quality of their wares, by their extremely short opening times. I have seen some open three hours a day three days a week, and hold months-long holidays every year. There is hardly a chance of ever seeing one of them open when I am not at work, namely, after 7 pm and during the week-end.

I had, therefore, never seen this particular shop (which, indeed, is in the heart of Frederiksberg) open before:

POP phones in Frederiksberg

Excess Chinese-made crap

It sells discount designer items–something that, in plain English, translates to “Overpriced, but no longer enormously so, items” (note the price drop from 349 to 100 DKK). Inside, the shop was mostly full of lampshades, but the window showcased piles of old-style telephone receivers for mobile phones. These are, objectively, a good idea: they are a lot more ergonomic than naked mobiles, and they reduce the risk of brain tumours by several orders of magnitude. I was about to buy one when I saw the usual “Made in China” tag. That changed my mind: it is time somebody takes a stand. A stand against underpaid labour, against non-existent environmental regulations, against state-sponsored strike-breaking. It is time, in particular, that communists distance themselves from the Chinese gang that still insists in calling itself a communist party. This is not, however a particularly communist concept: for once, I am asking people to transcend party lines, and to think instead of the bottom line: their employment, and the future of the planet. I would like to have August 8 as Do Not Buy Chinese Day. Details will follow. But spread the word in the meanwhile.


Stephen Gowans on North Korea

A clear analysis of the North Korean behaviour, for once not explaining it by the whims of yet another madded dictator.

what's left

By Stephen Gowans

Why has North Korea withdrawn from an armistice agreement that has kept overt hostilities on the Korean peninsula at bay since 1953? Does the withdrawal portend an imminent North Korean aggression? Hardly. North Korea is in no position to launch an attack on its Korean neighbour, or on the United States, at least not one that it would survive. North Korean forces are dwarfed by the US and South Korean militaries in size, sophistication and fire-power. The withdrawal serves, instead, as a signal of North Korean resolve to defend itself against growing US and South Korean harassment, both military and economic.

US provocations

For decades, North Korea has been subjected to the modern form of the siege. “The aim of the siege is to reduce the enemy to such a state of starvation and deprivation that they open the gate, perhaps killing their leaders in the process…

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Hail the Pope

I am sorry to interrupt the Adele Gödel series: truth is, all the reference material I need is shielded by paid licenses, and the abstracts are too vague to let me understand if paying would actually get me the right article, so my post on fluoridation is stuck, so to say, in thick red mud.


It is hard for any left-winger, or anybody who cares for justice not utter some worry at the election of the new pope. The old one was bad enough. His position on pretty much every issue came straight from the XIII century and his purpose in life seemed to be to drag society back to that time. In other respects, however, he was treated unfairly by, well, people like me. He had been a member of the Hitler Youth, and much has been said about that, mostly because the idea of a Nazi pope, especially one who so much looks like a Star Wars villain, is irresistible. But the truth is that most German boys were in the Hitler Youth at that time, the exceptions being people with far more than ordinary intellectual independence. That kind of people are very rarely religious, let alone on the way to becoming Catholic priests.

The current pope, Mario Bergoglio, is made of sterner stuff. He was not a poop-headed teenager during the reign of Videla and Galtieri. He was a high prelate whose responsibility, both as a christian and as a decent human being, was denouncing and opposing the atrocities of the regime. Instead, he was somewhat involved in the disappearance of (at least) two other priests. The two reappeared, naked and drugged; versions then differ, with human rights activists claiming Bergoglio handed them to the junta, and Bergoglio claiming he worked behind the scenes to ensure their release.

It doesn’t matter. In the former case, Bergoglio would be a murderous opportunist using the regime to get rid of colleagues he disliked. In the latter, he would have been so involved with the shady characters of the junta he could affect their decisions without any public denunciation.

Not that that the choice of a man so muddled in murder is particularly surprising. The Catholic church, as it loves to drivel, is rooted in tradition and, albeit one would be hard pressed to find a worse pope in recent times, endorsing massacres of civilian populations and the rooting out of intellectuals is not Francis’ prerogative: pope Innocent III did the same in Southern France, destroying the most vibrant culture around the Mediterranean. The amount of civilians summarily executed (mostly by burning) was about the same as under Videla and Galtieri, close to 20000. Occitanic culture, possibly like Argentina, would never recover.

Well, for Catholics, a pope is assumed innocent until all witness have been silenced, and all evidence muddled with, and I expect people will keep on asking me for more “evidence”; you can find more about it here.

Update (25/3/2013): the pictures of a priest and Videla smiling at each other are not of Bergoglio; which, of course, doesn’t make him any less of a scoundrel.