Monday, July 27, 2015

Grieks foutenfestival: van 600 miljoen Euro voor Goldman Sachs tot alexithymie van Europese leiders

"Exodus uit Messolonghi" 
door Theodore Vryzakis (1853)
Ik zit in een “diner” in New York. “Diners”, een soort goedkope Amerikaanse eetcafes, worden in New York grotendeels gerund door Grieken, velen aangekomen na de Tweede Wereld Oorlog en na de Griekse burgeroorlog van 1946-1949. Zo’n 20.000 Grieken wonen nu voornamelijk in de wijk Astoria, ten oosten van Manhattan aan de overkant van de East rivier gelegen.  In Astoria zie je nog steeds veel Griekse winkels, cafes, restaurants, en Grieks Orthodoxe kerken en als je de Griekse tongval op straat hoort, waan je je, zeker in de zomer, even in het verre Griekenland. 

Terwijl mijn ogen over de menukaart glijden, moet ik denken aan de vele stigma’s die de afgelopen tijd over Grieken zijn geuit in de Europese en ook Amerikaanse media: Grieken zijn lui, corrupt en geven geld uit als water. Nou zit er een kern van waarheid in als je kijkt naar de Griekse regeringen en de oligarchen, maar geldt dat ook voor de gemiddelde burger?  Mijn ervaring met Griekse “diners” laat een ander beeld  zien:  drukdoende en hardwerkende Griekse uitbaters en obers, velen die lange dagen werken, aangezien diners vaak 24 uur per dag open zijn, iets wat je niet snel zal zien in het efficiente Duitsland of Nederland.

Toch, Griekenland is meer dan die oppervlakkige waarnemingen. Griekenland is niet alleen bakermat van de Westerse beschaving of goedkoop vakantieland. Griekenland heeft een turbulente geschiedenis achter de rug: vanaf de 15e eeuw driehonderd  jaar overheerst door het Ottomaanse rijk.  Een zwaarbevochten Duitse bezetting in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, gevolgd door een splijtende burgeroorlog, met o.m. betrokkenheid van Groot Brittanie en de VS.  Een militaire dictatuur van 1967 tot 1975. Daarna tot 2015 regeringen die geleid werden door de socialistische PASOK partij of de conservatieve Nieuwe Democratie partij, beide partijen verweven met de corrumperende oligarchie in het land, en in die zin alle drie verantwoordelijk voor de vele problemen die Griekenland plagen. Kortom niet een land, waar simpele clich├ęs op hun plaats zijn.

Hoe het Grieks drama ook afloopt, nu al staat vast dat niet alleen de goede naam van de Grieken is beschadigd, maar ook de fundamenten van de Europese Unie,  zoals economische samenwerking, politieke integratie en zelfs democratie. Zoals ik hieronder in vogelvlucht zal schetsen is dit niet alleen veroorzaakt door de Grieken, maar door een patroon van Euro-politici die gedurende meer dan twintig jaar forse inschattingsfouten hebben gemaakt.  Uiteindelijk zal heel Europa hieronder lijden.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

American Pharoa: Finally a Triple Crown Winner

American Pharoa at 2015 Preakness Stakes
(Commons Wikimedia)
Finally it happened: American racehorse fans have been waiting for thirty-seven years for a new Triple Crown Winner, and last Saturday it finally happened. 

American Pharoa won the Belmont Stakes in New York, the third race of a three race series, the Triple Crown, a title awarded to a three-year-old Thoroughbred horse who wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

According to Wikipedia, the first winner of all three Triple Crown races was Sir Barton in 1919.  Till 2015, only eleven illustrious horses had won the Triple Crown, including Sir Barton: Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978.)

In recent years many top racehorses were close by winning 2 of the 3 major races, but failed to win the third, such as California Chrome (2014), Big Brown (2008), Afleet Alex (2005),  Smarty Jones (2004),  Funny Cide (2003), War Emblem (2001) and Point Given (2000.)

But this year the American racing sport and its many fans got a shot in the arm, when American Pharoa,

Friday, April 24, 2015

100th Anniversary of Armenian Massacres or Genocide?

Armenian Prisoners, Kharper, Armenia, Ottoman Empire
April, 1915 (Wikimedia)

Today marks the day that hundred years ago, over 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire. According to most historians this was a genocide, i.e. the systematic destruction of all or a significant part of a racial, ethnic, religious or national group - according to Wikipedia, which lists as examples of genocides, the Holocaust, the Rwandan and Bosnian Genocides, and the Armenian Genocide. Turkey, however, does not want to call this tragic episode a genocide. What do eyewitnesses say? The Washington Post's article "Is this genocide? What four Americans saw happening to Armenians 100 years ago" presents quotes from a recent book Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide by Thomas de Waal, an expert on the South Caucasus region. One quote is from then U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau in a cable sent to Secretary of State Robert Lansing on July 10, 1915:


"Persecution of Armenians assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely scattered districts indicate systematic attempts to uproot peaceful Armenian populations and through arbitrary arrests, terrible tortures, wholesale expulsions and deportations from one end of the Empire to the other accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage, and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them. These measures are not in response to popular or fanatical demand but are purely arbitrary and directed from Constantinople in the name of military necessity, often in districts where no military operations are likely to take place."

Morgenthau went on, explaining the shocking reasons behind the violence:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Danny Schechter (1942-2015), Journalist, Filmmaker, Author and Activist



It's with deep sadness that I have to announce that Danny Schechter, journalist, filmmaker, television producer, author and friend died on March 19, 2015 after a battle with cancer.  Danny Schechter was a unique personality, in person and professionally. His media background started in the 1970s on the radio as "The News Dissector" at WBCN-FM in Boston, where he informed his listeners about the news infused with his typical sense of humor. In 1980, he joined CNN, the cable news network that just had been founded by Ted Turner, and later on he was a producer with the ABC News magazine 20/20, where he won two Emmy Awards. Independent-minded as he was, in 1988 he co-founded the production company Global Vision together with Rory O'Connor, where they produced many documentaries, including "South Africa Now", an award winning public television series.

Danny's passion always was on the crossroads of media and human rights: he reported on how the mass media informed or rather misinformed on many topics. He had maintained that the media were critical to a well-run democracy, but over the years realized that the media were no longer a solution to the problems in the world, but part of the problem. Danny also covered some of the major issues of our times: from the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the civil war in Bosnia, to civil rights in the U.S., the debt crisis in this century with his film "In Debt We Trust: America before the Bubble Burst" and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Danny Schechter was not only a radio host and filmmaker, but also an active blogger and author of 17 books. Among his books, he released the following

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Changing Role of Publishers

Every day there are new views and discussions about the changing role of publishing, While browsing for the latest developments, I found this August, 2014 article "Authors should back Amazon in the battle with Hachette" by John Kay in The Financial Times. Kay's article is about change, the value of publishers and the strengthened role of authors. He describes the ebook controversy between Amazon and Hachette, which last summer was still unresolved after months of negotiations, - see also my June, 2014 blog post The Amazon - Hachette Saga -and he disagrees with a group of leading Hachette authors who wrote an open letter intervening in that dispute. Kay believes the authors should understand that they are benefiting from Amazon's technology and distribution capabilities. Although the dispute between Hachette and Amazon has been resolved (see this November article in The New York Times,) Kay makes some worthwhile points. In his view it's all about change and how publishers and authors - and readers for that matter - deal with this ongoing change in the publishing landscape. He states (underlining added by undersigned):

"....Established companies in all industries are inhibited in their response to radical change by vested interests inherent in their existing business models. Music publishers tried to block new technologies, and were marginalised by better-run businesses: Apple, Walmart and Spotify. Book publishers responded initially with dismal reproductions on screen of their printed books. When these failed to sell, they retired into protecting the status quo........... 


....The role of the book publisher has been based on control of access to channels of distribution. The ambition of the aspirant author has always been to “get published”. Along with the decision as to what should be published, the company has traditionally provided a collection of associated services: identification, support and finance of the underlying literary project, editing of the draft manuscript, and marketing and promotion of the finished work. But the large conglomerates that have come to dominate publishing are run by people who love money more than they love books. These support-activities have been cut back in the interest of maximising the revenue, from control of access to distribution. "


Kay continues by saying: