April 29, 2009

On Principles

I just watched this magnificent interview (in spite of the shouting match) by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show with Cliff May, who is known to defend the use of "methods to make terrorists talk" against the fundamental ideas of the Geneva Convention. The topic came up because of the recent publication of the CIA torture memos in the United States. The discussion now asks if there should be methods of pressuring prisoners into giving information and what that pressure could look like. Get a picture here:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 1
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Part 2, Part 3

Although I fundamentally disagree with Cliff May - having watched quite a bit of the TV series 24 - I think I still get the way of thinking that lies behind his arguments. If in a given situation the safety of a whole city, or the country, or a number of innocent Americans, depended in a TV-like fashion on the piece of information you know this prisoner has, you should be able to do what it takes to get it out of him.
The point where I find this misleading is where reality is not TV-like, because you can never be sure that information you get from torture is worth anything. Going to far to find out later if it was of any use should not be an option in any country.

I would like to quote Jon Stewart with one sentence that I found not only true, but that seems to cut through the whole debate: "Defining where we push the boundaries of torture has nothing to do with the person we have in custody, it has to do with who we are." This sums it up for me. By our principles we define who we are, especially in difficult situations.

April 26, 2009

Planet of the apes

I feel too busy to write here, but it's not true. It's all about priorities. I have time because otherwise I would probably spend this half hour reading the news or watching videos on youtube or surfing around facebook. I know a lot of people in my generation do that.

But sometimes we need to ask: Where do we get all the time? Don't we have more important things to do? The answer is "probably", but I would not have known about some of the things that are important to me if it wasn't for the internet. In an information society we clearly are the ones who are figuring out how to use the huge stream of information, how to generate it. And it is getting better!

I am convinced I have learned a lot on the internet, probably more than in a year at the university, just from reading articles and listening to talks on youtube, and also from exchanging ideas with friends and reading their blogs. I am social, not only in the palpable reality surrounding me and have gotten some good advice or inspiration on the web.

So is the time we spend online just procrastination? It probably is of some use, I certainly hope so. And if that is not enough, consider this:

Be happy, my fellow monkeys :)

April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Look at the video again and enjoy Earth Day :)

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
Khalil Gibran

April 12, 2009

A Tolerant Easter For All

First of all I would like to wish you all Happy Easter! May you spend this spring week surrounded by family and friends. I myself have worked in the garden, painted eggs, had easter breakfast with family and enjoyed spring on the terrace. Always living the good life :)

On a different note Easter is the most important Christian holiday. Given this, of course the topic of religion is on the table and although I rarely write about it, today I would like to say a few words.

While Pope Benedict XVI calls for peace in the Middle East, this news item (unfortunately only available in German), is an article about the Easter sermon by Walter Mixa, a German catholic bishop with a less peaceful message. He has been known for highly conservative ideas and tasteless comparisons. Apparently a politician of the green party once called him a "manic chief fundamentalist". I would like to say that I don't consider myself an atheist, but Mixa's current attack goes against most any world view that does not prominently involve God (especially the Christian one).

Two published quotes from the bishop's sermon really get me upset:

"Where God is negated and fought, man and his dignity will soon enough be negated and disdained, too. A society without God is hell on earth."

"In the last century the godless regimes of National Socialism and Communism with their penal camps, their secret police and their mass murders have proven in a gruesome way the inhumanity of practiced atheism."

To me this is backward thinking and although I won't enter into the atheist/theist discussion I just want to point out that this kind of attack no matter from which side is really hurtful. Of course the picture he is painting is factually untrue but more importantly it is a message of separation. It condemns people for what they believe or don't believe.

I take it a bishop's job is to 'spread the Good News'. What he is actually doing is bringing horrible news to an awful lot of people who will not appreciate the church for it, or for that matter Christianity as a whole. Truely a job badly done! In short: I could not disagree more with the opinion and the way of delivering it.

Now fortunately I don't have to end on this negative news story, but instead I would like to share this with you. A Charter for Compassion that unites rather than separates. Watch the video and be happy :)

April 09, 2009


I now have twitter. The media have all kinds of conceptions and misconceptions about this new communication tool. It is simple as can be: Write what you are thinking or doing in a public site where people who choose to can read it. Mostly the critics say this is utterly irrelevant, unimportant and random information, so why bother.

But then again for the people, who select a twitter feed, do have some kind of interest in what the person behind it writes. Maybe the person is a friend, a colleague, a news source or a celebrity. To the one who chooses to read it, the information is obviously not irrelevant or they would not read it, right?

After all, twitter is a tool and tools depend on the user to make good use of them. I use it to virally spread information I consider worthwhile and let for example friends and family see, what I am up to. If I think it is superfluous I will leave it :)

Read this and think about this: "The time it takes for an idea to circulate is approaching zero."

April 03, 2009


"Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume there is no hope, you guarantee there will be no hope."
- Noam Chomsky

Now Germany has me back. My car is broken and needs to be repaired. I have not gotten the job I wanted because I was unreachable while in Morocco and did not tell them beforehand. I need to find a job because travelling is expensive even when you live on a low budget. Still I have not completely thought out my graduation that I want to happen some time soon. I want a mid and longterm perspective!

For now I am planning a new semester. Spring is here and there are already new travels on my schedule. Everybody is writing to me and my friends are eager to see me. Life is in full swing and I will be busy like a bee soon enough. Have I mentioned that the sun is shining? :D

Have a great weekend everybody!