Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On the Brink

December 31st, 2008.

We stand on the brink of 2009.

We stand on the brink of a bloody, all-out war between the Palestinians and Israel, all because of madmen in frantic search of eternal power. The Hamas, murderers, cowards. Terrorists. Betrayers of hope. The Israeli government, intent in redefining the meaning of the word “strength”, and of reawakening the fear of its army throughout the Arab world, in a hopeless quest for popularity before the Israeli people go to the polls. Death, pain, loss and despair, all for the sake of people greedy for power, people lost in petty schemes to win popular support. All for the sake of a lame-duck US administration who’s all too happy to leave this poisoned gift to the successor to the worst president the US has ever had in all its (short) history.

We stand on the brink of the total annihilation of an economical system that has caused poverty, slavery, brainwashing of billions of people into nice, good and obedient little consumers/slaves. A system which believed itself to be eternal after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but which has shown that the only thing it’s capable of is to devour itself. To trigger despair, poverty, loss of ideals and values, to replace it with the one true god it recognizes: money. A system which, after using as slaves all the people of the underdeveloped countries, is now ready to gobble us all up. If we don’t change. If we pass out on this unique opportunity to seize matters in our own hands. If we pass out on this chance to regain control. We, the people. The States. We should seize control of companies, of banks, through public stakeholders. We should be the ones dictating the policies of the multinational corporations. We should be the ones deciding where the profits go: to the States so they can pay our pensions and our social security, our roads, our trains, our schools…not to the stakeholders.

We stand on the brink of a disaster greater than any we have ever known, for if our governments do not heed the warnings we have been given since September, if we do not change the system that dictates how our lives are led, and fast, we will see it wobble through for a year or two. And then it will crumble. And it will take us along with it in its fall.

We stand on the brink of chaos in countries we sent troops in, claiming we’d bring them our enlightened vision of the world. Afghanistan is now worse than it has ever been, all because we support a corrupt government which behaves worse than the Talibans ever did, thus causing the people to side with terrorists, and causing people to regret the cruel rule of those who were nothing more than madmen.

And then, we stand on the brink of hope.

We stand on the brink of change.

In all the dreary news of 2008, there was one which shed light all over the world. One which lifted billions of hearts, and got people to believe in a better tomorrow.

On January 20th, Barack Obama will step into the White House. On his shoulders will rest the hope of a world. The hope of billions of people who need the change he has defended throughout the US presidential campaign. We need hope. We need change. We need someone to steer the way, to lead in another direction. We need someone who will dare turn his back on the old liberalism, on the financial capitalism. We need someone who will dare put us, the people, the States, back in our proper place: center seat, with the controls in hands.

Because of the vote on November 4th, 2008, hope was kindled. And for this, I will forever be grateful.

We stand on the brink.

Mr. Obama, it’s up to you to see to it that we do not fall.

I wish you all the luck in the world.

I wish us all you’ll have the guts and the strength of will and vision to get us through.

Welcome, 2009, welcome, January 20th.

We await you with great hopes and expectations!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Gall of the Failed Ones

Everywhere it's the same. Everywhere you hear the same: financial capitalism has gone bankrupt. It has twisted our lives, it has betrayed us, it has stolen our wealth and turned it into void. If you pushed some people a bit, they would probably tell you that it eats children and is directly responsible for the eradication of dinosaurs.

Not that I disagree with some of the things that are being said out there, but who's saying that? Well, look around:

Darling W, Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy...

All these men are the heroes and defenders of the same financial capitalism that has now showed us all it's a failure, and is threatening to take us with it down the drain. They all supported it, they all supported deregulation, and they all fought with everything they had anyone who dared think differently, and anyone who tried to warn of the danger we're now all too much aware of.

And beyond the grand speeches where W, Sarko or Brown tell us that they're going to control the banks, and restore regulation, save us all from the cataclysm, what do their actions tell us? Well, they tell us the truth that's hidden behind their oh so flamboyant words.

Sarko hasn't moved an inch from his positions. Jobless people will still be ousted from the protection system, the rich will still be exonrerated from taxes while the middle class continues to be the one that pays its taxes. The CEOs will regulate their own golden parachutes, there will be no law forbidding them.

In Belgium, the powerful CEOs corporation, the FEB, has the gall to threaten all the workers and the government: if there's a law regulating golden parachutes, then there will have to be deep cuts in the notices the employees have a right to when they're fired.

The speakers for all the rightwing parties, whose policies have always supported financial capitalism, now spew out words that belong to the left. They remember the name of Keynes, they remember concepts like using the state's power to help maintain the economy. They turn their back on rightwing neoliberal politics, they embrace policies they abhor, policies they insulted and spat upon yesterday without the smallest qualm. Without ever admitting that they were mistaken, that they misled people all these years. They blissfully turn coat in their speeches, making it seem they always thought that way, making it look like they're just doing what they have to do, oblivious to lies, coherence and decency.

And what's worth is: behind the strong words, the actions prove that nothing has changed: in France, huge sums of money have been poured into the banks (which is mandatory because we all stand on the other end of that line and if banks sink, we sink along with them, faster and harder) without insuring ANY MEANS OF CONTROL over the banks' actions and strategies--other than imprecations and other empty speeches delivered by the fake commander in chief, aka Nicolas "Napoleon" Sarkozy.

While the stocks were soaring, spearing through the sky, all the authorities kept howling for the incomes not to be raised, because nothing could get in the way of economic growth. Salaries couldn't be raised, it'd be impairing the companies, and hindering the system. People could simply be indebted, and it'd all turn out well, they'd be able to buy hordes of things they had no means of paying for, and everyone would be happy. We know where that particular idea led us. Now that everything is going bad, and the incomes haven't been properly raised offr years, now that the workers' unions demand this more than earned raise, the same authorites who keep barking that everything must be done to help people regain their trust in the systme and being once again able to buy stuff, well the same authorities say "ooooh, noooo, no raises, please, no hindering the poor system".

Conclusion: the CEOs keep their golden parachutes, the rich keep their tax cuts and other fiscal tricks to evade tax, the banks get the states' money (our money) without being controlled by the states who lent them the money, the politicians shoo the workers' union away for being baaaaaad people who don't understand how hard it is. Laws and decrees are passed to insure that all the social net dispositions are as hard to obtain as possible, and that people can be written off as soon as possible. And of course, we employees...

Well, we employees are screwed, as usual.

The powers-that-be keep on wanting to push the system that's eating our lives away.

And in the meantime, whenever they can spit on the left, they do. They claim the left's policies are old, obsolete, and lead nowhere.

But where have the right's, the neoliberal policies led us?

Down into the abyss.

So please, give me a break, people. You neoliberals are failures. Making riches out of the poverty of people, allowing them to get more and more indebted to compensate for their lack of income and their lack of social rights as goes the great swindling used in the US of A, is plain and simple suicide.

We know this now.

We know rightwing neoliberal policies are garbage.

So stop trying to mask your worthlessness by spitting on others. Your time is now past. It's time for a change.

I can only hope people remember that, wherever they are, and whenever they cast a vote.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sleep in Light, Saints of Athena

Today is August 15th, 2008. If you care enough to remember about the schedules of the Elysion-Hen release, then you know that the last two OVAs have been aired on Skyperfect TV in Japan. The end of Saint Seiya has been reached. Now that it's all over, I find myself haunted by a question that refuses to let me be.

How do you say good bye?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to answer that question in a manner that satisfied me. It’s hard to say good bye. It hurts, even more so when you say good bye to people you love, and no matter that they may be fictional characters. Endings are things full of a bitter-sweet sensation, a feeling that engulfs you and overwhelms you in a heartbeat.

So it has been for me on numerous occasions, and so it was once again, when I watched the sixth and last episode of Saint Seiya, Elysion-hen. The last episode of The Hades Chapter. The last page of Saint Seiya. True, the story is over, has been over for over fifteen years, when the manga ended. Still, while the anime wasn’t complete, didn’t cover the whole manga story, there remained pieces of the Saint Seiya universe to explore. There remained stories to tell, characters to depict, characters to watch while they struggled through the harsh lives destiny, or rather the whims and inspiration of an author put them through.

In the middle of the usual, virulent criticism branding these OVAs to the worst hell, claiming them to be garbage, an utter waste of time and attention, I have to once again stand apart from those who probably consider themselves better able to judge, more connoisseurs than I. I know, my opinion isn't the fashionable one, it's a really unseemly view of those OVAs, but then I was never one for conformism. While I will readily acknowledge that the OVAs stick to the manga as close as it’s possible to do so, with very little in the way of creation, of inspiration to add threads where they were lacking—the manga is extremely frustrating in the way it deals with Hypnos and Thanatos, and in the way it completely forgets about the whole relationship between Hades and Shun once the Andromeda Saint wins free of the god of death’s soul—it doesn’t turn these OVAs into a complete and utter waste.

Those who claim it’s so prove their own words wrong, as they’re always the first to jump on the first dirty quality release to hit the web, usually through yucky videos on youtube. Again, they prove themselves wrong when they explain that they’ll forget about the OVAs and go back to the manga, which they’ll reread with pleasure. That’s bullshit. The manga holds all the flaws they hate in the OVAs. The OVAs are so faithful to it that everything these people loathe is there, comes from there in the first place.

And anyway, there are beautiful moments in these OVAs. Scenes that are precious, shining jewels, however short. Like the one depicting Ikki’s Houyoku Tenshou, or the one showing his despair at being unable to deploy all his strength, bereft of a Cloth as he is, next to the urn imprisoning the dying Athena.

Seiya’s death? Why, yes, it’s short. It’s brutal. It doesn’t linger, it doesn’t leave time for anguished and despaired farewells. It strikes when you don’t expect it. It strikes when you’re not watching. You focus on Hades sprawled against the tower of his tomb, and when you realize something’s terribly wrong and refocus on the Pegasus Saint, it’s too late. His heart pierced through by Hades’ sword, every heartbeat bleeds his life away, and it’s already almost completely gone. Seiya’s death isn’t Shion’s. It doesn’t linger. It can’t linger. It’s brutal, harsh and unfair, as death in combat is. It’s over and done before you can really feel it and dwell on it. And it’s irrevocable. And the depiction made of it is a good one, it’s realistic, and correct. That’s one thing nobody who knows the tiniest bit about writing can’t deny.

As to Hades himself, well there’s no question about it. The god of Death is magnificent. The eerie look in his eyes, the alienness, detachment and sadness lighting his gaze are haunting. You watch this strange, cruel and yet sorrowful god, this merciless figure, and you wonder: what made him so? What pushed him to the course of action he has chosen? What happened in the past, in the times when the gods and goddesses freely walked the Earth, shook mountains and sent oceans raging with each step? (*)

And then there’s the confrontation between Hades and Athena. At last, the two divinities face each other in battle. Yes, it lacks animation. Yes, it’s too short. But the art, the auras rising from the two are splendid. There may not be enough brutality and violence, the slipping of Athena’s helmet may be a bit stupid (as stupid as in the manga, mind you), but there is something undeniably noble and unearthly coming from the two divinities. That isn’t a failure. The art of Athena’s Cloth, the way it’s worn by Saori Kido are unmistakable winners in my eyes. There’s only one occasion when she has been drawn and made so regal: in the Tenkai-Hen movie.

Contrary to the claims of the OVAs being completely unable to show anything other than what’s been drawn in the manga, we also see nice shots of Earth, and a reminder of those who have a personal interest in the war’s issue. The Sanctuary and Marin, Shaina and Seika, Miho in Japan and Shunrei in China. Those are in the manga, but what’s not and is being offered is the short scene with Julian Solo/Poseidon and Sorento. Waiting at the edge of the cliffs of Cape Sounio, the God of the Oceans and the human being he shares a soul with watch, wait, guarded by his closest friend and servant. In the falling darkness, despair grips the heart of Sorento. Uncertainty…

As to the rest of the critics, they follow the usual complains of lack of animation and fluidity. As stated before, nobody in their right mind would have expected that to change. The lack of a true staffing for the later chapters of the Hades were known. The lack of budget as well. There was no reason for a miracle to happen in the last two episodes. But besides that, what those who have retained the magic of Saint Seiya in their hearts were given the beautiful art of Michi Himeno and Kyoko Chino, and the inspired music of Seiji Yokoyama. We were given a long awaited closure. We were given the occasion to say goodbye to characters, to a universe which has been with us for more than twenty years.

A universe and characters I have no intention of ever letting go.

And so, contrary to many people who now watch Saint Seiya with detachment, with a critical and analytic eye, and find in the series flaws that revolt them, contrary to people who have grown up and grown out of the magic, I am happy to report that I am still as firmly hooked today as I was on the first day when I switched channels and stumbled on the combat between Shun and Jabu in the Galaxian Wars. My heart has been captured by that series ever since that day, and it’s never going to change. It lives on, its characters live on.

It may be that Saint Seiya is some strange kind of a youth fountain, because I’m still the adolescent I was when I first discovered it. The child in my soul is still here, and it’s a good thing. What’s another good thing, is that this child inside me, this part of me is still as stubborn and mean-tempered as it was. So I’m finding that my answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this page is very simple:

You don’t.

You don’t say goodbye.

You keep on cherishing the characters and the universe.

In spite of all the true flaws, you say thank you to all those who made the Hades possible. You say thank you to Shigeyasu Yamauchi for making the Sanctuary chapter the jewel that it is. You say thank you to all the staff that remained after Masami Kurumada drank too much beer and decided to crack down on creativity and inspiration to add new things and complete the holes the mangaka had left in his storyline.

You say thank you to Shingo Araki, Michi Himeno and Kyoko Chino for sticking with Saint Seiya to the end, in spite of weariness, exhaustion, lack of staffing, of means, of time, and of acknowledgment. You say thank you to Seiji Yokoyama for hauntingly beautiful and inspiring music that are at one with the universe they were created for.

You watch the realm of Hades crumble into dust.

You watch the Saints of Athena, battered and hurt, grieving, stumble down the stairs leading away from Hades’ temple, lost in an ocean of desolation. And while you wonder whether they’re also going to die here, to forever lie in the dust, in a realm of darkness, forgotten and alone, you watch the goddess Athena come behind them, and you watch the light radiate from her to enfold them all.

In the sky, the sun shines again over the world.

Over the Sanctuary.

Over Cape Sounio.

And the gods aren’t gone.

The magic isn’t done. It’s not dried up.

It’s there.

It’s here.

With us, inside our hearts, if only we’ll acknowledge it and believe in it.

I do.

Saint Seiya, I love you.

As usual, you can find this review with beautiful images from the episodes on my web home, here.

(*) After thinking long and hard about that, and trying to find coherence, I did come up with an answer. Read Thieves of Light, and tell me what you think, if you manage to read it to its end.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Spin, Tragedy, Spin !

As the whole world now knows, there’s a state of war between Georgia and the Russian Federation. The Bush Administration, unsurprisingly, is calling upon Russia to stop its unwarranted, savage aggression of a sovereign country. And of course, most of the western capitals are following suit. Of course.

The Big Bad Russian Bear is on a rampage. What are free, democratic and civilized countries to do, but rally to the defense of the poor, gentle David being trampled under evil Goliath’s mighty foot?

What else can we do, when evil Russian Commies^H^H^H^H^H^H ooops, erm, bad guys are threatening the free world? What, I ask you? Parallels with the cold war are drawn, with the invasion of Czechoslovakia…a general recasting of the cold war and its “Communist menace upon the free world”(*) is being re-enacted before our eyes, courtesy of the TV networks, kindly fed by governmental agencies.

One thing is true in all this: there’s a war going on there, and as in all wars, those who’re paying the price are the innocent, the civilians, played as pawns on the chessboards by people who have no soul, no heart, and no dignity. No honor.

As for the rest…if you read the newspapers, if you listen for dissonant voices, you’ll get quite another story. And if you strain your memory, and focus on remembering news that are now around 4 years old, you’ll start wondering.

So, let’s go back 4 years. In Georgia, the elections renew the presidential mandate of Mr. Saakashvili. However, his election was a very close thing, instead of the plebiscite he’d been hoping for. Who’s Mr. Saakashvili? Well, again, focus on the past, and you’ll remember this man came straight from the US, so closely intertwined with the US interests that there was no hiding he was a US creature. He was first elected because people believed his American connections would help rebuild their country, depleted by generations of USSR rule. But this didn’t happen. Saakashvili used his contacts and connections to get American and Israeli instructors for his military…oh, and weapons and equipment as well, of course.

In the meantime, as these things go, and went in the Balkans, regions of Georgia where a majority of Russian population lived started wanting out of Georgia, for many reasons: growing intolerance toward them, toward their language, etc. Obviously, there’s oil in there somewhere as well. If there wasn’t, you’d never have had the US send military instructors and waste time on such a “backwater” place as Georgia. So, Abkhazia and South Ossetia severed themselves from Georgia. South Ossetia declared independence. There was strife, there were battles. The UNO settled the matter, and Russian peace soldiers were sent to the South Ossetia region under UNO mandate.

Time passed. The promises of riches of Mr. Saakashvili didn’t happen. People started grumbling, discontent flared. To be re-elected in 2004, Mr. Saakashvili promised he’d retake Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He played on nationalism. And he won. Narrowly. We were now almost to the end of his presidential term. None of the promises of regaining lost territory had been kept. People’s discontent caused this “democratic leader” to start taking authoritarian measures, to turn democratic Georgia into an autocratic state. Still, it wasn’t enough to crack down on freedom there. Promises had to be kept, at least one of them. Abkhazia was too difficult to retake. South Ossetia, on the other hand….

And then came the Olympics, and the opening ceremony. And the world’s eyes turned toward China. And Mr. Saakashvili decided to play his card: he sent his army to retake South Ossetia. His hope was that the world’s attention being focused elsewhere, Vladimir Putin being in Beijing, by the time Russia would react, it would be too late: he’d have retaken enough of the South Ossetia region to force negotiations, truce, and to haggle his way into regaining South Ossetia as a whole.

But there were two mistakes in Mr. Saakashvili’s plan (never mind that it would imply the deaths of innocent civilians, after all, martyrs are good things for a cause):
  • he underestimated Russia’s capacity to react quickly, and the fact that even though Putin was in Beijing, his right arm was in Moscow.
  • Mr. Saakashvili’s army was stupid enough to kill Russian peace soldiers, there under a UNO mandate, thus forcing the hand of Russia. Even if Russia had wished to delay its reaction, the death of its soldiers forced it to react at once as it has done.

And so here we are. We’re watching a war unfold. We’re watching innocent being murdered, because a man, pawn of the US and “champion of democracy”, is a dictator like all the others, and will not relinquish power. Because his own people are nothing but chess pieces, because Mr. Saakashvili knew that once he started the mess, the bloodshed in South Ossetia, all his western allies would rally, the US first and foremost among them, to call off the Big Bad Russian Bear. There’s too much at stake:
  • appearances, first. After all, Mr. Saakashvili is the US champion and a very tainted flag of democracy (but it doesn’t matter, as long as the American citizens remain ignorant of the truth of what’s happening in South Ossetia).
  • oil, second. Because the Caspian sea is to Georgia’s East, while the Black sea is to Georgia’s West. And it’s a crucial path to get oil from the Caspian sea to the Mediterranean sea and the West, through the Black sea. A path that avoids Russia.

There, now you have the whole picture. People are dying, innocent people, for the power of a dictator hiding between a veneer of democracy that’s so ripped and stained everyone can see through it, and also for oil. And Mr. Saakashvili and his goons started it, Russia continued it. And people are dying. As always, the innocent pay the price for war. As always, none of the two sides are innocent. There’s no black and white. Everyone is at fault.

And now that a power-hungry autocrat named Saakashvili has foolishly rattled the Big Bad Russian Bear, and given a it the perfect pretext to come playing in Georgia, where will it stop? Where will Russia stop, now that it's been invited in to play, and that it's standing inches away from gaining not only South Ossetia but also Abkhazia? and what if Ukraine starts wanting to play as well, and starts rattling the Big Bad Bear some more by threatening to prevent the return of its warships to Sebastopol? Where does it stop, Mr. Saakashvili? Where? When? How many deaths for your ambition? It's oh, so very nice to shout that you're ready to negotiate a cease-fire, and that your troops are withdrawing out of Ossetia. It's too late. And you knew it would be. You knew, and yet you gambled. You played with your pawns, with people's lives. And you might as well have killed them all yourself. And all that happens from now on, all the pain, all the damage, all the sorrow, all that will be on your bill, Mr. Saakashvili. I hope you'll be ready when they come to collect.

But then, maybe this isn’t important. After all, the Olympics have started, and what matters is the number of gold medals we get, right? Not the dead. Not the maimed. Not the raped. Not the freedom of Chinese people. Not the respect of Chinese people who were put to work to build the Olympics facilities for wages so low you wouldn’t live a day off them, and then chased away because they’d stain the games if the tourists or the athletes, or the world laid eyes upon them. The Earth’s damned. We had them in the 19th century. China has them now, and it keeps them fettered, in close control. After all, they’re the key of its economic miracle. Slaves, serfs, are the key of capitalism’ success. But then, there’s nothing new here.

Good night, and good luck.

(*) when you compare the harm, grief, sorrow, deaths caused by the “Communist menace” and those caused by the overwhelming, crushing rise of unfettered capitalism and neo-liberalism, I find myself hard put to get a winner in terms of damage, pain and evil. One (the “Communist” thingy) was openly dictatorial, sent its people to gulags and tortured or killed them if they didn’t comply. The other (capitalism) has selected a few nations to be on top, happy, free and rich thanks to the sweat, blood, pain and death of billions of other people. These other people aren’t deported to gulags. They’re starved in their own countryside, until they’re forced to march to where factories are, than forced to accept labor conditions only slaves and serfs of the middle-ages knew. Those other people die before they reach retirement (and anyway there’s no pension for them, no doctors, no health care, nothing). Their kids are put to work as well, be it in factories or brothels. And we prosper. So, really, when comparing, I don’t know which is worse between the two evils that are Communist dictatorships and triumphant capitalism—wait, no I think I know what’s worse: a power that combines both.

That’s China.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Brave March Toward Defeat

The endless Democrat Primary seems to have found a way out of its dire predicament. Hillary Clinton conceded the victory to Barack Obama, and called her supporters to now cheer for the party’s nominee. You would think that this would herald a strong, meaningful campaign stressing out the many differences between Republicans and Democrats, underlining the differences in ideas, ideals, principles and values between the two parties. After all, even though on economical, foreign policy and many other grounds, the two parties are just about the same from my European point of view, there are true differences, essential differences when you start tackling societal issues: abortion, modernity, death penalty, the right to privacy, etc.

So, there I was, waiting for this strong campaign to start off, for the Democrats to start marching toward the final goal of a victory in November.

Instead, I found them and all the “progressive” pundits, editorialists and political analysts labeled as close to the Democrats jovially, bravely, happily marching down the road to certain defeat.

Obama-addicts like Maureen Dowd clang to their snubbing and hissing against Hillary Clinton, finding fault with just about anything she might or might not do (how ungraceful of her to be nice while conceding the victory to Obama, if only she had acted like a good, stereotype shrew…). Others continued praising their “leader maximo”, apparently so entranced as not to see where this is all heading, even though each day brings its newest Obama flip-flop.

Of course, politics is not a game for idealists. Ideals are there, but they are painstakingly hidden behind shields, armors and high walls, because what’s on the front lines is realism, a complete absence of decency and qualms when contemplating slander, lies or anything dirty that would help boost one’s chances for a final victory. Still, there’s looking the other way while your hero or his aides deftly plunge a dagger between two of your enemy’s ribs, piercing through the heart, and then there’s looking the other way and allowing your champion to skewer his own feet with his blade, repeatedly.

And I regret to say, that by now Barack Obama has so completely managed to skewer his own feet, that there’s almost no way he can heal in time for the final race in November.

Do you want a catalog of those jarring mistakes? Okay, let’s see:
  • Protesting the supreme court’s decision concerning the non-application of the death penalty to child rapists;
  • the U-turn concerning his refusal to accept public financing and the rules that go with it, the safeguards that guarantee you won’t be the puppet of all the lobbyists surrounding you (but then facts have already demonstrated that the self-proclaimed Obama the independent caters to his buyers, the same as everyone);
  • applauding the supreme court’s decision to make the weapons’ ban on DC unconstitutional (if you ask me, only people lost in a past of cowboys and barbarians cling to an amendment allowing them to have weapons, after all in a civilized society you don’t make your own justice, you let the institutions do that, but that’s another debate);
  • getting ready to make another U-turn in an essential vote in the Senate, to find favor with the breaches of people’s privacy and supporting the telephone eavesdropping done by the Bush Administration;
  • flipping once again on his Iraq stance.

There are others, but I won’t bore you with them. There’s plenty enough here to get the idea.

Looking at that catalog of flip-flops, what kind of feeling do you get, other than the one that you can’t trust anything that said by this candidate who boasted that he’d do politics otherwise and would embody “change”?

Well, you get the feeling that he caters so much to the conservative base, to the Republicans, that you might as well go for the real thing and vote for Mc Cain.

One lesson we have learnt in Europe, Mr. Obama: when having to choose between an ersatz and the real thing, voters will go for the real thing.

Another lesson we are learning, is that people turn away from politics and politicians because those who come before them to get their vote no longer dare be clear about what they stand for, about the differences they have with their rivals, about real differences in vision, and what they have to offer. Politicians, and the whole machinery behind them are so obsessed with politically correct, getting the other side's people to flip over, that they will say anything, betray their own ideals, flip over and over again, deny the heart of their political engagement, in a stupid, doomed to fail hunt for the other side's voters. And in doing so, they completely forget about their own side, they fling the people who made their own roots to the wind.

Because there is no longer a clear line dividing the opponents, because there is no longer a clear difference of vision, of propositions, people shrug and go the other way instead of going to the polls and casting their vote.

Because there is almost no courage left in politics and politicians, because they cater to anything and anyone regardless of ideals and principles, people turn away from them. Because the one supposed to be the flag of your party, the embodiment of your ideas and your views on the world ignores you and is obsessed with winning some of the other side over, no matter what he has to say or do to reach that ludicrous goal, you turn away from him. Because you watch your enemy try to cajole you into voting for him, running behind your own candidate on issues, you watch him do so and laugh--and of course you won't change your vote.

Welcome on the road toward defeat, Mr Obama. You're well on your way there, and from everything I've read, heard and seen, you fully deserve what's coming to you.

If this didn't mean another Republican in the White House in November, I'd be rolling on the floor laughing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Saint Seiya - Elysion Hen: Falling Toward Apotheosis

Today is May 12th, 2008. At the sluggish rate of two episodes every two months, the OVAs of Saint Seiya – The Hades, Elysion Hen are coming out in Japan. In fact, the first two episodes were released around the beginning of March, two months ago.

If you can count on your fingers, you already have guessed that this post is being written more or less at the time when episode 3 and 4 are released. Why the wait? Why not jump on episode 1 and 2 and post some overenthusiastic, fangirl-ish review the way I almost always do? Well, I don’t know, really. But I can venture educated guesses, if you’re curious: the first two OVAs adapt parts of the manga I’m not exactly keenly interested in. Oh, and the Toei didn’t find it in its greedy oversized banking account even if a tiny, tiny little bit of money to reinforce the staff, give a bit more budget so that there can be actual animation in these episodes. Dynamism, flow, action. Rhythm.

Ah well, so much for miracles. The old, white-bearded guy above mustn’t be listening. Either that, or he’s on strike again, unless of course he never existed outside of the collective imagination of the believers.

So, if this is such a disappointment and all, why this message? Well, because it’s not “such a disappointment and all”. Despite numerous awful reviews, raving, frothing at the mouth bashing, Saint Seiya is still there. When I got the news that the HQ Raws were out and that my partner had the translation ready for re-reading and adaptation, I sighed, and told myself, “all right, I’ve been doing this since the Meikai-hen’s first episode, I’ll see it through to its end.” Then I sat down and watched episodes 3 and 4.

And I loved them.

The animation is as poor as before. The direction lacks any kind of creativity, the anime is full of cheap effects, glaringly obvious tricks used to try and mask the fact that there is no animation at all. And the good news is: it doesn’t matter. It’s Saint Seiya. Shingo Araki and Michi Himeno are there. The fantastic music pieces of Seiji Yokohama are there, and the selection made by the staff is masterful. The fixed plans are gorgeous beyond words. A simple static scene of Seika sitting in the little store of Rodorio, all sepia-colored, is enough to set the atmosphere.

The colors of the Earth, the grey of stones and temples, the steel blue of the sea above Cape Sounio as Julian Solo touches souls with Poseidon once more, the look in Sorento’s eyes when he gives one last look back before following his friend and liege lord back to the mundane world… The slowly darkening day as the eclipse nears completion. The fields of flowers strewing Elysion’s plains, the fragile blades of grass crushed under the sprawled bodies of the fallen Bronze Saints. The glint in Thanatos’ eyes, and the little twist in his ever-present sneer. And an echo, from beyond the ends of the world.

A note of music, a call. The yearning cry of the Gold Cloths, trapped on the other side of the abyss setting Elysion apart from all the worlds. The touch of a soul, the willing surrender of self of Julian Solo, a few precious heartbeats which are enough to send a last, desperate gift to those who are lost at the far end of the Lethe river.

Don’t expect a magnificent animation when the gold Cloths come, you won’t get it. But what you’ll get, is a few precious moments, absent from the manga: just the time for the Bronze boys to unleash an attack, supported by the Gold Cloths they wear. And that, oh, that, is animated. And it’s a Shun fangirl’s dream come true!

The story follows the manga as closely as it has since the Meikai-hen’s first episode. There is no further surprise, but still, somehow the magic operates. The spell envelops those who watch, and who have held on to what they felt, all those years ago, when they discovered what remains to them the most fantastic series ever made. I do not claim any kind of objectivity. I do not claim any kind of knowledge or expertise allowing me to pass judgment, or deliver a verdict on what I saw. On the opposite. I am a fangirl, I’ve been for the past 20 years. And don’t worry, I manage.

For a moment, I wondered whether I shouldn’t rather be ranting and spitting on the episodes I saw. Then, the moment passed. I’ve never watched Saint Seiya for the quality of the animation, for the direction, or for the prowess of the writing. When those assets were there, as they were in the Hades – Sanctuary chapter, or in the Tenkai-hen movie, I embraced them as a bonus that added even more joy to the viewing experience, no more. No less.

This is Saint Seiya.

I love this title, without condition, without reservation. I enjoy every bit of it. My heart beats in synch with the music. I shiver. I feel moisture in my eyes. Echoes of the melodies haunt my mind. A bittersweet feeling rises within me, and sweeps everything else aside. A strange, eerie time machine that does the trick every time, and brings me back 20 years. Saint Seiya, I love you, indeed. In spite of flaws, of poor animation, of poor direction, of lack of creativity. In spite of everything.

I watch those episodes, and fling my rational self to the side. Fling the critics my brain comes up with aside. I don’t give a damn about all that. I keep on loving this series, against gales and harsh tides, against all the learned opinions that tell me I should avert my eyes. I really, really don’t give a damn. And you know what?

I find my continued enthusiasm, my stubborn love for this series to be a very reassuring thing.

Two episodes left, and then it will all be done. But one thing is for sure: ending or not, I will not say goodbye to all those fantastic characters or to that universe. They’re in my heart, in my soul. In my dreams. And they’re not leaving.


You can find this review, with some very nice pics taken from episodes 3 and 4 in my web home's Saint Seiya section : here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Old General, the Bitchy Witch and the Dazzling Idol

It seems that the time for "foreclosure", announcements of victory and calls for withdrawal has come again. In very serious and wise newspapers and elsewhere, much-listened to OP/ED pieces writers come out (yet again) to make an impassioned speech about how poor Mr Obama is attacked by bad and evil Mrs Rodham-Clinton, and how, did she have any shred of dignity and honor left, she'd just withdraw, retire in some nunnery or other and let all the Barack worshippers celebrate what often seems to amount to them as some kind of "second coming".

The most funny thing about all those pieces, is that they have nothing to support them in the way of ideas, of policies defended by either candidate. Those pieces are full of only one thing: "we love Barack, we hate Hillary the mean bitch". Those pieces simply echo the advertisement slogans of Mr Obama's campaign, which remain, to this day, just that: advertisement slogans, with little reality in them.

In the meantime, the old general strolls on, unharmed, unhampered, toward a goal he may very well reach. Of course, the fault doesn't lie solely with the Obama campaign. Theugliness is shared on both sides: Clinton and Obama really should know and do better. But in that regard, they're both in the same boat and at the same level. The only thing is that for some reason many avert their gaze when the ugliness comes from darling Barack's camp, in a fascinating display of selective vision and hypocrisy, while they pay excruciatingly close scrutiny to the smallest misstep of Hillary.

How about coming back to the basics?

How about getting back to what those people propose, and to what they're likely to do once in power to make a choice?

Have all these famous, respected and oh-so wise OP/ED pieces writers forgotten about the meaning behind the word "politics"?

Thanks to some kind god or goddess, there remains one OP/ED writer who hasn't forgotten, and it's Paul Krugman. Again, he has produced a wonderful little piece of common sense and wisdom in his OP/ED piece in today's edition of the New York Times: Loans and Leadership. Selected quotes:

(...) it’s important to take a hard look at what candidates say about policy. It’s true that past promises are no guarantee of future performance. But policy proposals offer a window into candidates’ political souls — a much better window, if you ask me, than a bunch of supposedly revealing anecdotes and out-of-context quotes.

Which brings me to the latest big debate: how should we respond to the mortgage crisis? In the last few days John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have all weighed in. And their proposals arguably say a lot about the kind of president each would be.

(...) Mr. McCain is selling the same old snake oil, claiming that deregulation and tax cuts cure all ills.

(...) Maybe the most notable contrast between Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton involves the problem of restructuring mortgages. Mr. McCain called for voluntary action on the part of lenders — that is, he proposed doing nothing. Mrs. Clinton wants a modern version of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, the New Deal institution that acquired the mortgages of people whose homes were worth less than their debts, then reduced payments to a level the homeowners could afford.

(...) I was pleased that Mr. Obama came out strongly for broader financial regulation, which might help avert future crises. But his proposals for aid to the victims of the current crisis, though significant, are less sweeping than Mrs. Clinton’s: he wants to nudge private lenders into restructuring mortgages rather than having the government simply step in and get the job done.

Mr. Obama also continues to make permanent tax cuts — middle-class tax cuts, to be sure — a centerpiece of his economic plan. It’s not clear how he would pay both for these tax cuts and for initiatives like health care reform, so his tax-cut promises raise questions about how determined he really is to pursue a strongly progressive agenda.

All in all, the candidates’ positions on the mortgage crisis tell the same tale as their positions on health care: a tale that is seriously at odds with the way they’re often portrayed.

Mr. McCain, we’re told, is a straight-talking maverick. But on domestic policy, he offers neither straight talk nor originality; instead, he panders shamelessly to right-wing ideologues.

Mrs. Clinton, we’re assured by sources right and left, tortures puppies and eats babies. But her policy proposals continue to be surprisingly bold and progressive.

Finally, Mr. Obama is widely portrayed, not least by himself, as a transformational figure who will usher in a new era. But his actual policy proposals, though liberal, tend to be cautious and relatively orthodox.

Do these policy comparisons really tell us what each candidate would be like as president? Not necessarily — but they’re the best guide we have.

Good night, and good luck.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Exercise of Vital Powers

Today is Elections day, both in France, and in Spain, and although the media have a lot to say about the French local elections, the place where all eyes should be focusing is Spain.


Because Spain has a fundamental choice to make today : either to continue toward modernism, the secularization of its extremely patriarchal society, toward social reforms aimed at improving life and welfare of everyone, or to slide back down the road of authoritarianism and Catholic dogma domination.

Contrary to the political spectrum we’re used to in France, Belgium, Germany or Holland, in Spain the right is set far, truly far to the right part of the spectrum. The specter of Franco haunts the rallies and meetings of the “People’s Party”—never has a political party so little deserved the name it’s taken for itself, but let’s not go there. Spain has never truly come to terms with the bloody dictatorship of general Franco, who was overwhelmingly supported and cheered on by the upper classes, and by the Catholic church.

The Catholic church itself has never come out of the closet with an expression of regret or apology, on the opposite. Even today, the Catholic church in Spain fights so it can continue to honor “victims of communist revolutionaries”, aka collaborators of a brutal, savage dictatorship who helped capture, detain, torture and slaughter men and women whose crime it was to dream of freedom, and of something other than the Right’s and the Church’s absolute dominion over their lives. Neither the church, nor the Right have ever done their duty of opening the historical records, and acknowledging the crimes that took place. They never condemned what happened under Franco. Worse, they hold ceremonies every year to honor the memory of a bloody tyrant on par with the worst we have known, Mussolini, Pinochet, etc.

And today, today the Catholic church and the Right see an opportunity to regain the power they lost when they tried to manipulate people and hide the truth behind the Madrid terrorist attacks. Today is mass day. The faithfuls will go to church. They will listen to their priest. And it just so happens that their priest has a message for them on this special day. A very important message that comes directly from the highest places in the Spanish Catholic hierarchy, from people who know better than us poor simple souls, and who only want what’s best for us.

And today, the Catholic church comes out of the woods, and clamps down its claws upon the people under its dominion. Today, it lifts its mask of benevolence and harmlessness.

Today, the Spanish Catholic church tells people for whom to vote.

Today, the Catholic church uses its power to try and regain what it never accepted to lose: dominion over every aspect of people’s lives, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof. In an almost sublime disregard for people’s freedom of choice and opinion, for people’s liberty to have faith in something, to be agnostics or atheists, the Catholic church rears its ugly head, and exercises its power.

Today, the Catholic church hands out for everyone to see the proof that, contrary to what optimistic people believe, it has never, ever accepted to withdraw to the sphere of people’s personal beliefs. Today, the Catholic church demonstrates that it isn’t satisfied with that, and that it wants what was taken from it during the French revolution in 1789: absolute power over temporal matters, over our lives. The power to dictate what we should do, think, believe and how we should lead our lives.

Today, the Catholic church proves that it’s anything but harmless, that it merely waits in the shadows, biding its time until the moment to regain what it lost comes.

It’s hoping that today is the day in Spain.

Today, the Catholic church proves that it keeps being a threat to all who would be free, and that it needs to be uprooted for good.

Today, the Spanish people have the unique occasion to send the Catholic church back into the closet, in the shadows where it belongs.

Good night, and good luck.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Those Who Make the Story

Those who write or tell the story aren’t those who make it. Quite a few US commentators, OP/ED pieces writers (hello, Maureen darling!) must be busy chewing their hats or their gloves or their sleeves right now. Serves them right.

Tuesday showed those oh, so mighty “opinion makers” that people still have brains and wills of their own. Tuesday served to show that those who make the story are the people themselves. The men and women who went to the caucuses, who went to the polls and cast their ballot.

No matter how it may displease the influential journalists who went so far as to order Hillary Rodham Clinton to call it a day and go home, to withdraw before the primaries in Texas and Ohio, “plain and simple” citizens gave all those influential personalities a very much needed reality check. The Democratic race isn’t settled. The candidates are neck to neck. It can still turn out any other way, and there’s no predicting who will win it. But at least, this time, the opinion makers will learn their lessons, and will stop their dirty little games.

Perhaps, just perhaps, from now on those same opinion-makers will stop spewing out vacant slogans and empty words to focus on the contents of the candidates’ program. Perhaps they’ll analyze the reality of those programs, destroy the lies and falsehoods spread by the campaign teams, and in particular the Saint Obama team, which is very good at that nice little trick.

Again, as it happened in New Hampshire, “simple” people reclaimed ownership of a democratic process that belongs to them and them alone: to choose the candidate who will represent their party in November. Once more, people showed the powers of the media that what matters is those who make the story.

Thank you, Rhode Island. Thank you, Vermont.

Thank you, Texas.

Thank you, Ohio.

Monday, March 03, 2008

When All is Said and Done

When the doors close tomorrow night, and everyone has had their say, we will know one thing. We will know whether pure communication without depth, without questioning from the media, truly can defeat facts, political knowledge and experience.

In France, this experiment ended with the communication monster winning the presidential election. Nicolas Sarkozy who, no matter all the bad things that can be said and argued against him, has a hell of a talent when it comes to selling himself and advertising himself, was elected president.

He was elected president because his was a message of change, of “rupture” with the past. He promised he’d do things in another way. He promised he’d unite all the good, capable and competent actors of the political life. He promised he’s put an end to partisanship, that he’d end the left-right wars. He promised people he was like them, he wanted the same things they did. He painted himself as the embodiment of people’s hopes, and also as the embodiment of people’s rejection of politicians and politics in general.

And he won. By a wide margin.

It was in May, 2007.

Today, less than a year after his entrance in the Elysee palace, his popularity numbers have plummeted. Already, people are fed up with him, with his antics, and with the “nothing gets done” reality that his promises have turned out to be.

The partisan wars are worse than ever. People’s lives are getting worse. Politics have done anything but change. And France is the laughingstock of Europe, when it’s not the pain in the ass of Europe.

Having watched both political campaigns until now, in France and in the US, one can’t help but be struck by the similarity between the two. In both, a candidate with a very clear talent for rhetoric, and gifted with incredible charisma. In both, a candidate with a rather empty, populist and pleasing message, who knows how to say what people want to hear.

The possibility that what happened in France will happen in the US is appalling. The result is known, and it’s not a bright or good one. Of course, here the difference is that what’s at stake is the Democratic nomination. The winner will have to face John Mc Cain. And with Mr Nader’s candidacy, all bets are in favour of Mr Mc Cain winning when opposed to Mr Obama.

Of course, the above reasoning may sound ludicrous to Obama supporters, but they should take a step back, and consider this: up until now, the media have been after Mrs Clinton’s hide, while fawning and gushing all over Mr Obama. Anyone who’d protest that would do well to get a good reality check, because the wake-up call will be most brutal. If Mr Obama becomes the Democratic candidate, this will change. Journalists will start doing their job again. They’ll investigate. They’ll ask questions. They’ll scrutinize Mr Obama’s record. And things will go downhill from there, helped along by gentle pushes from the Republicans.

There is a way to thwart all that the media and the Republicans have planned and forecast, and that is for Hillary Rodham Clinton to win in Ohio and Texas tomorrow.

Take a good, long look at France as it is today, and think twice before you cast your ballot, or join the Obama group. Think twice, or you might very well end up like France. And you really, really don’t want that to happen.

Also, check out today’s opinion piece by Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

And tomorrow, think. Do not swoon.

Just think.

Good night, and good luck.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Live and Let Die

The euthanasia debate just might start again in France, after the brave and difficult decision of a 52 years old woman to allow her case, her suffering to be used as a symbol, and a channel for the debate.

Upon hearing for the umpteenth time the argument used by those who refuse to allow euthanasia to be set into a law, with clear boundaries and a frame of reference for doctors and patients to work with, I find myself fighting down disgust and exasperation with quite a bit of difficulty. Because all these people have are words.

Just words.

Empty sounds, that resound in a room, resound in the places where the TV is turned on and set on the debate channel. The syllables drift through the air, rebound on the walls, and then, what? And then nothing. People spew out sophistry, grand principles, bits and pieces of philosophy, never ever having the honesty to come out with the real reason why they oppose it: religion. Religious dogma and beliefs, which have nothing to do, no right to interfere with the everyday, temporal life of the citizens living in a democratic country. And while those holier-than-thou figures argue against the right for a person to decide of how, why, where and when they should end their own life, people keep suffering. People keep being in pain.

And words, pale words, are just laughable.

What does it matter to you, if someone decides to rule their own life, and the manner of their own death? What business of yours is it? None.

Nobody will ever make anyone shorten their life or hasten their death if they don’t want to. Euthanasia is about the absolute right to self-determination, it’s about the right to do what you want with your life, the affirmation that it belongs to you. If you believe your life belongs to some god and that in accordance with your beliefs system you should suffer, agonize for years, months, you name it, you’re welcome to it! Please, by all means, do lead your life and your death the way you please! Just don’t meddle into the lives and deaths of others!

It’s all too easy to guess at why the opponents to euthanasia will never relent: most of them oppose it because they belong to a monotheistic religion which states that life belongs to a deity without a name or face and that, as such, you cannot decide what you do with it, since it’s not really yours.

And, of course, the problem with religions, is that they are inherently intolerant of other systems of ethics. And that they believe they have “The One Truth.” They believe that they’re entitled to dictate what everyone, whether they adhere to their beliefs system or not, should do, think, and how they should live and die. Religions must save everyone, against themselves. They must redeem the sinners who do not see the light, who do not understand the obvious.

I’m sick and tired of religions.

I’m sick and tired of hypocrites who argue against the right for someone to decide what to do with his/her life or his/her death, quoting the progress of medicine, how painkillers would help, how having a better, more adapted environment would oh so certainly change the person’s decision to die. The truth is, while those hypocrites who are too cowardly to admit their opinion is nothing but a religious dictate, the people they pass judgment upon, and whom they forbid the right to die keep on suffering. The truth is, that no “better environment” will happen. The truth is that no “revolution of palliative care” will take place.

The truth is, also, that religions cannot abide people accepting death and welcoming it on their own.

Without the fear of death and the promise of a heaven when you die, provided you have been an obedient follower of religious dogma and laws, religions would lose most, if not all their appeal on people.

When I take a look at what’s being said in the US, how candidates for the presidency are forced to spew out the words “god” or “jesus” at every turn if they want to have a chance of being elected, in what claims to be a secular country, when I look at what Sarkozy spews out in his speeches, I cannot help thinking it’s high time for a revolution.

It’s really, really high time for a repetition of 1789.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Is that all you’ve got to say for yourselves?

All right, everyone knows what day this is. This is "supertuesday", and there’s a lot of buzz and noise in the netherworld. But the problem is that most of it is just that: noise.

Not signal.

Dynasties of Kennedy spread the news of their support to Barack Obama, who gladly accepts, never mind that he’s supposedly representing “change” as opposed to Hillary who’s just the “surrogate of her husband” while welcoming the endorsement of what’s certainly the oldest and most powerful dynasty around in the Democratic party. But then, who cares about coherence and intellectual honesty these days?

And then there’s all the journalists, all the writers of opinion pieces. I swear, they’ve sent all those who like Hillary on leave for a few days, so they can come to Belgium and enjoy the Carnivale week, and put all those who love Barack so much on forced assignment. Of course, everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, and an opinion piece is just that. Opinion. You can say you like Barack better because he likes your favourite TV series, and you hate Hillary because really she should know Bollywood movies better. Still, I, for one, would love a bit, a tiny little bit of content in these articles.

I’d like people other than Paul Krugman (whom I’ll never cease to admire for the seriousness and depths of his articles) to come up with real stuff. With ideas. With the things that the candidates defend, and what they’ll do. I’m fed up with all those Clinton haters all bashing Hillary with “she’s a surrogate for her husband”, “it may be unfair but still it’s valid to consider that her husband would be back at the White House and we’d have a third Clinton term”. Get over it, people, get over your fake niceness, and be real. Be frank, say it: this woman’s candidacy disturbs you. It disturbs you deeply. You cannot imagine that she’d be the US president. You cannot imagine that she wouldn’t be under her husband’s thumb. In short, you cannot imagine a woman in power.

And of course, you all cover this up neatly by attacking Bill while feeling oh so sorry for Hillary, who doesn’t deserve it, for whom it’s so unfair, but.

You also cover it by drooling all over Barack Obama, who should be getting tired of all the spit drenching his costume and shoes by now. You pretend you believe in the incredibly naïve at best, and deliberately misleading dovish declarations that “with Barack, there’ll be an end to partisan wars.” Of course there won’t be. Everyone knows this. The first among those in the Obama campaign team who knows it is Barack himself. As his nice and funny experience with one of his main sources of money, Exelon, reveals.

And of course, you cover it by dumping dozens of articles on how hard it’s gonna be for poor Barack, being black and all, on how marvellous, how “truly American” it would be to have him reach the White House. Funny, almost nobody seems to realize that voting for a woman poses at least as much problems. But then, machismo, sexism aren’t things you talk about in good society. Why? Because it’s gone of course, silly! In our civilized societies, it no longer exists. Of course it’s no longer there! Nobody would use sexist arguments, nobody I say. You have to realize, to use a sexist argument, you’d have to say that Hillary is merely a surrogate for Bill, that no matter how you like her, you can’t vote for her, simply because we all know who’ll be wearing the pants, and who’ll be the real president…Ooops.

Hey, I think that’s what all those people are saying out there, making my argument for me. Why, thank you so very much.

I’d have so loved to have this campaign, and the articles I read, to be on contents. On ideas. On policies. On direction. On vision. On the future. Hillary may not have Barack’s charisma. But instead of the nice, pleasing “we’ll all love each other and be friends” or the always catchy (but phony) “I’ll do politics in a new way”, you have depth. You have plans for getting health care to all the citizens. You have strength, a backbone. A knowledge of the world, and of the harshness of it all.

And, if I may, in Hillary, you have a woman. And to have a woman lead the self-proclaimed strongest power in the world, and to have all the sheikhs and Arabian princes bow and show respect and deference to a woman…well, that is something I’d really like to see.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Enough With Naive Delusions

Everywhere, it's the same: the Clintons are big bad devils from outer space and the Nth layer of hell, complete with forks, pointed tails, horns and breathing fire and toxic fumes. Gods, you'd think all the US journalists and all the analysts have never seen a political campaign.

I don't know, people, do you even remember your own history, the way your dear country does things? The US is *T*H*E* gameboard of the dirtiest politics around the rich democracies in our sorry world. Insults, smearing, slander, lies, deception, anything is game. And yet people cringe and howl "unfair" when they hear or see Hillary or her campaign staff (husband included) attack the designated victcim and martyr: Barack Obama. Please, people, give me a break with poor, innocent, guileless and oh so pure Barack! Stop victimizing the man, stop falling into pace with his own game! He's no wide-eyed kid discovering the world, he's one of the richest candidates around, and he's been preparing for this thing. He knew the rules beforehand, he knew how things would go, so please. Please, enough with the stupid, goofy expressions of dismay and outrage whenever he's being attacked.

If somebody dares say race plays a role, s/he's branded and condemned like the worst of criminals. And yet, it's true. It's as much about race as it's about gender. And neither Hillary nor Barack are free of prejudice and bigotry, from hatred as irrational as all things that come from religion.

One thing that can be used to attack Barack Obama, that should be used against him and instead is used as a standard of "change" and "betterment" is his completely ludicrous claims that he'll change the way politics are done and put an end to partisan wars.

That claim is a pure and simple lie. And Mr Obama cannot pretend innocence or naivete on this one. Nobody can. Not his advisers, not the journalists who go about as if such childish, stupid claims were a miracle straight from the heavens. And here, again, I find myself thanking the gods and goddesses, above and below, named and unnamed, real or imaginary, for the existence of Paul Krugman. I'm just an anonymous voice echoing in the smallest bit of the netherworld. He's a renowned, acknowledged economist. And here is what he has to say in his opinion piece in today's edition of the New York Times : Lessons of 1992 :

[...] Has everyone forgotten what happened after the 1992 election?

Let’s review the sad tale, starting with the politics.

Whatever hopes people might have had that Mr. Clinton would usher in a new era of national unity were quickly dashed. Within just a few months the country was wracked by the bitter partisanship Mr. Obama has decried.

This bitter partisanship wasn’t the result of anything the Clintons did. Instead, from Day 1 they faced an all-out assault from conservatives determined to use any means at hand to discredit a Democratic president.

[...]So what are the lessons for today’s Democrats?

First, those who don’t want to nominate Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to return to the nastiness of the 1990s — a sizable group, at least in the punditocracy — are deluding themselves. Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1).

The point is that while there are valid reasons one might support Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton, the desire to avoid unpleasantness isn’t one of them.

[...]My sense is that the fight for the Democratic nomination has gotten terribly off track. The blame is widely shared. Yes, Bill Clinton has been somewhat boorish (though I can’t make sense of the claims that he’s somehow breaking unwritten rules, which seem to have been newly created for the occasion). But many Obama supporters also seem far too ready to demonize their opponents.

What the Democrats should do is get back to talking about issues — a focus on issues has been the great contribution of John Edwards to this campaign — and about who is best prepared to push their agenda forward. Otherwise, even if a Democrat wins the general election, it will be 1992 all over again. And that would be a bad thing.

There, you have it. So please, pretty please with sugar on top, stop. Stop swallowing all the fishes Mr Obama sends your way. There will be no peace, no collaboration between enemy sides. Anyone who believes this might as well go back to school and relearn history, and also refocus on the central characteristics of human nature.

There will be partisan wars. Whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton win the White House, there will be a partisan war. A bloody one. A dirty one. An ugly one.

And no sappy claims to the contrary will change that outcome.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Sorry Laws of US Campaigning

"Thou shalt insult thy competitors"
"Thou shalt ridicule their previous achievements"
"Thou shalt make up false biographies and smear thy opponents"
"Thou shalt attack thy opponents' families and stoop as low as it takes"

I could go on like this for ages. The list is endless. We all know the tedious, mediocre drill of elections campaigns in the US. They go lower than anyone in the Europe would dare envision, although I have to admit that Sarko, Aznar and the gang have tried their best to emulate the American talent for low, vile, and base campaigning. Better to smear and slander, to use empty but nice sounding slogans than to talk about true things. About political programs, and actually require voters to think about issues. Yeah, thinking is bad, as one of Sarko's goons, Mrs Lagarde, so eloquently put during a memorable speech in the French Assembly: thinking is bad, thinking is dangerous.

Still, as prepared as you can be, there are things that keep surprising you. There seems to be no end to the baseness some candidates can lower themselves to.

This weekend, Barack Obama has crossed the red line, and stepped to the other side. forget about achievements, forget about who likes which part of the US population more, who knows more than whom. It no longer matters.

Mr Obama has been insane enough to call Ronald Reagan's presidency better the Bill Clinton's, and to claim that Ronald Reagan's presidency has made history and made America move, adding that by contrast Bill Clinton's hasn't.

Wow. I have to admit that that one floored me.

Of course, maybe Mr Obama was locked up in a comfortable office during those years. Maybe Mr Obama isn't much aware of the world outside the US borders. If that is the case, let me just say this for the record: in Europe, Ronald Reagan is considered to be the worst president the US ever had in recent history (although W is sure to replace him on that pedestal soon). He was the laughing stock of people, as were those who voted for him and put him in power. Of course, you really don't need to take my word for this little bit of historical consideration. You should, however, take Paul Krugman's, and read his opinion piece in yestderday's edition of the New York Times: Debunking the Reagan Myth.

Now, we have two solutions :
  • either Mr Obama is ignorant of all this, and he should address this blatant lack of knowledge and culture, and then come back and set things straight
  • or Mr Obama is simply lying through his teeth, and he's ready to use just about anything to attack Hillary Rodham
Either way, what Mr Obama did by belittling Bill Clinton's record as president, as Democratic president, while lauding Ronald Reagan's record as president, a Republican president, has a name, be it in politics, in business, in friendly rivalries of all kind and elsewhere: a fault. A bad, really, really bad fault, which in any European country would cost him all chances of victory he might have had once.

In politics and elsewhere, you DO NOT belittle your own party's record while supporting that of your adversaries. Doing so betrays a lack of nerve, a lack of loyalty, a lack of depth and argument that simply render the one who commits him non-credible.

I've been watching Mr Obama's campaign through the newspapers, and though I've been favoring Hillary Ordham from the start, I did try to leave myself room to change my mind and to keep weighing the one against the other. Well, from now on I know I no longer need to do so. Perhaps I should thank Barack Obama for relieving me of my dilemma.

I guess that if I were an American citizen, I'd be a New Hampshire woman. Somehow, I find that to be a rather pleasing image.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Not That Dead After All !

The fact is sufficiently rare for it to deserve a post from me.

An opinion piece in a major US newspaper dares to dispel one of the Great Truths spewed out by many in the US: no matter how many love to badmouth us, bash us, call us withered and old, obsolete, Europe is alive and kicking.

Europe is well and good, and a much nicer place to live in than the US. Yes, that shocking truth has been revealed for American eyes to read, written by one of their own, a very much renowned economist.

Thank you very much, Mr Krugman, for daring to come out with a reality that runs counter all the fools who believe they're the alpha and omega of the universe in your country.

Check out the article in today's edition of the New York Times: The Comeback Continent, by Paul Krugman.

See, no only do we have fridges, electricity, but what's more we have TV, DVDs, mobiles, and even broadband internet access, but we live in a much more secure place. Because we pay our taxes, and give money so it can be redistributed to all. We're not Robin Hood and Europe isn't Sherwood, but at least here, there is something to catch you when you fall, and we don't spit our contempt on people who have accidents, who lose their jobs, who get sick or who're less lucky. It's no charity dictated by some god's moral, it's a choice made by citizens. A choice of a society in which the pursuit of happiness isn't racing to die working, and self-development and self-fulfillment can exist outside of the office.

A choice of a society where we don't go around claiming we'll never get sick or old, or we'll never lose our jobs unless we're losers. We don't claim we're all individually self-sufficient, and free to choose more or less health care if we want (which really means: whether we can afford it, it never has anything to do with "want").

We're a society that says: we'll get old, we'll get sick, and we can lose our jobs. And we must do something to insure we can live on, and live as well as possible. And to ensure this, we empower the state, and we pay our taxes. And we remember that the states are the only institutions where we have a say, that's called elections. We have a true power, that is called the right to vote.

We're a society that knows very well that companies and corporations are not philanthropic by nature, that they're there for profit only, and that they're anything but democracies. That we have no say, no true power in them. And that we cannot trust them, because it makes no sense to trust into institutions which do not exist to serve people, but to serve a goal named profit.

So we give power to the state, the one institution we can control. We pay taxes. And we live a better life.

Oh, and we do not delude ourselves into thinking we're above old age, sickness, or other accidents.

In short, we are adult enough to recognize we're only human.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thank You, New Hampshire !

The media and surveys dictatorship has been unmade.

In the last months, all the media, all the analysts and editorialists were talking about the inevitability of Hillary Rodham’s election as the Democrats’ candidate. Some regretted it, and kept bashing her at every opportunity. Those same people were oh, so keen to point out the problems that would unfailingly arise from inexperience and the mistakes or blunders of a certain Barack Obama.

Then came the Iowa Caucuses. And, in a now overused routine of coat-turning, all the media started bashing on Hillary Rodham in earnest, while drooling with ecstasy over Barack Obama. Within a single day, experience, knowledge, an invaluable team of advisers and strength became huge disadvantages and points that would unerringly drag Hillary into total and utter failure. Within that same day, Barack Obama, who has gathered more money than the Clintons for his campaign, became the champion of change with empty declarations like “I’ll end the partisan bickering” (everyone with a shred of brains knows that this is just utopia, and will never happen in a world populated with human beings) and “I embody change”.

In the course of a single day, a candidate was dumped into the junkyard, while the other became the new “inevitable nominee”. He had all the media could dream of: nice and sympathetic face, good actor performance, nice family, a little bit of color, and the urban legend that he’s a little guy who climbed up the ladder all by himself. The perfect American Dream. And of course, since he's relatively new to the scene, people hadn’t yet had time to grow bored with him. As usual, everyone forgot that they will always be disappointed with anyone who’s been in power, and who’s had to face failure, and the hardships of actually doing something in a world dominated by a market and an economy gone mad in a globalized environment the politicians now have almost no leverage on. Add tot his the slogans that he’d end partisan wars and unite the country, well, how could the media resist?

The bashing went on for Hillary, while Barack became something like the second coming. Surveys were produced, foretelling the demise of Hillary, and the continued rise of Barack. Editorialists started writing paper advising Hillary on the right manner to bow out of the race. When Hillary showed the slightest sign of what could be interpreted as a weakness, it was broadcast all over the internet and all over the TV channels.

And then, against all odds, the results of the vote in New Hampshire came.

And the media got a very, very much needed reality check.

And the citizens of New Hampshire gave me back a reason to hope in democracy. The citizens of New Hampshire denied the rule of the media and surveys, and exercised their right to choose whomever they please, whether it pleases the great and all powerful media or not.

So I want to say thank you, New Hampshire, for giving the world a reality check, and for reminding us that people are free.

That people’s votes and opinions will not be dictated by surveys and flip-flop media.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Frenzy and Misconceptions

As expected, the Iowa caucuses results started a round of frenzy around the world. Many editorialists go on about how deeply significant these results are, and how they herald change in the US.

Some even press their right hand upon their chest at the heart's level, and tell you that what happened in these caucuses is the purest form and expression of democracy. If you look closely, you'll see their eyes glistening with unshed tears of pride and love. They're the journalists working for the Wall Street Journal, the great defenders of the neo-cons and the republicans, those who bark everywhere that the US is the greatest, the bestest democracy in the whole universe. I guess their sappy declarations of love for the caucuses, which are the most undemocratic process of election I've ever seen is coherent with their other declarations. At least I have to give the Wall Street Journal people this: they're not frightened of ridicule, and they do not step back from ludicrous claims:

Imagine a gymnasium full of people. Some are gathered in groups here and there. Others roam the space, undecisive. The groups shout at each other, yell catacalls, clap their hands and tap their feet on the ground to impress and unsettle the others, and try for shows of force to draw the undecisive their way. John Doe, who had said he'd vote for X, suddenly sees that a great many others are in group Y, and they call so loudly for more supporters that John Doe finds himself instintively going for the stronger group. In the meantime, Jane Smith wanted to vote for T, but T unfortunately doesn't gather enough supporters to be above a threshold percentage of votes. So Jane must choose someone else. No luck, she doesn't know. But the people supporting Y are so numerous, so loud. They seem so sure. So Jane goes to join the group defending Y. And when the ending time comes, a basket is handed from person to person, above heads in the crowd in a joyful chaos, and people "each" throw papers with the name of a candidate in the basket. There is no way of checking that this is done without any cheating. And of course, the caucus is nothing other than people putting pressure on other people to vote this instead of that. It bars some from attending, because it's held at a certain time, and that people who'd vote must endure at least 2hours of debate they have no need for, but must bow to, so they can be subjected to outside pressure and dictates on how they should vote.

The whole process certainly is the purest form of anti-democracy held in the self-proclaimed greatest democracy of the universe. A process the Wall Street Journal people know so well how to denounce when they explain the process of voting for or against a strike in gatherings of union workers. But then, it's true that this is the US, a country where voting isn't compulsory, and where elections day are invariably weekdays, when people are at work, and they either have to take a day off or do I don't know what to manage to place their vote. The greatest democracy of the world, indeed. But then, we wouldn't put the day for the election on Sunday, no, we wouldn't. We wouldn't dare annoy all the good Christians out there, would we?

Now, let's tackle the results of the Iowa caucuses on the Democrats' side. I'll spare you my thoughts on the Republicans' side, because you wouldn't like me to explain to you in detail how these results confirm my opinion that a good half of the USA no longer lives in a democracy but is putting a good old theocracy in place (the whole of the USA is in fact a plutocracy, but let's not go there either).

Barack Obama's victory certainly is a powerful symbol. It's gonna send hearts beating, it's gonna send waves of warmth and elation coursing the veins of all those who have soft spots and still delulde themselves into believing in the lie called the "American Dream". But at the end of the process, when the game is over, it'd be far better for Hillary Rodham to be the winner. Why?

Because, no matter what you can say, what the media can say, the American citizens as a whole will never elect Barack Obama over a good WASP Republican. No matter what people like to believe, the heritage of segregation and racism aren't dead in the US. The South and the Middlewest states, the infamous Bible Belt will not elect a black, Democrat candidate as president, even though his mother is a purebred WASP.

Because, whether or not the people who have sparks in their eyes when they hear Obama talking of "deep change in the way of doing politics" and of "suppressing the wars between red and blue states" like it, the whole speech is just empty words that have a nice ring to them. There will never be "peace" and "understanding" and "collaboration" between Republican and Democrat states. People will never abandon their little wars, their agendas. And more importantly, they will not renounce their own ideas to endorse some kind of empty, soft consensus. And if they did, in some utopia world or other, the result would be a status-quo that would in no way be the tiniest beginning of the change Barack Obama claims to be embodying.

Because, outside of his "I'll change everything" message, Barack Obama has no clear program, no clear vision of what he'll do and how. Outside of his nice face, of his appealing youth and the fact people don't know him and thus don't (yet) associate him with their general dislike of politics, there's no clear indication of what he wants. Worse, from the little he's said, he looks like the most conservative of the Democrat candidates...

Because Hillary Rodham has the experience.

Because Hillary Rodham has fought in the arena, because she has confronted the fiends one finds on one's path in Washington, when she tried to reform the oh so nice and fair health "care" system the US has.

Because Hillary Rodham has guts, because she's strong. Because she knows what she'up against, because that terrible machine has beaten her down once, and she rebuilt herself. Because she failed, and took strength from that painful experience. Because she is the only one, having encountered it, fought it, to be able to claim she can challenge the smearing and demolition machine of the Republicans. She's been there. She's withstood them. She's proven her metal.

Hillary Rodham has proven she has the will and the strength to endure and to prevail in the hell they call a presidential campaign. She has been tested. She has been through fire.

Because Hillary Rodham knows there is a world beyond hte US borders, and will have many friends in Europe. Because she knows the job.

Because she has a team such as no other candidate can have.

Because, once the Republicans will have chosen Rudy Juliani, John Mc Cain or Mitt Romney, she's the only one who can confront them.

And if she could have Edwards as a vice-president hopeful, I think I'd have to revise my judgment, and start believing again that a hope for change is possible in the US.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

366 days...

To start on a quest for happiness.

To strive for a better world in our everyday lives, no matter how little we are, or how insignificant the things we can do in regard with all the pain and loss all around us.

To remember our roots.

To regain our bearings.

To open our eyes.

To question the “truths” authorities, media, political, religious or otherwise dump on our heads.

To take a good, long look at our lives and answer this question truly: is this what we want?

To wave aside hopelessness and the general consensus around the inevitability of living in a world where finance and economy rule, in the service of a few plutocrats, who wave before our enraptured gazes flags of “freedom” and make of us good little consumers, obedient little variables in their equations.

To tear off the mask of “democracy” our governments and those who own them have so securely tied, so that we can’t see the nice reality that we live in plutocracies, all of us “citizens of the free world”.

To turn our backs on all priests, popes, televangelists, predicators, imams, rabbis, and all religious figures and hierarchs who would presume to tell us how we should live our lives, tempt us and threaten us with whatever lies beyond the moment of our death, and to know better than we what’s good and what’s bad.

To weave a mantle of emerald green for our bleeding world.

To get involved in elections, and fight for what we believe in.

To see the Olympics in Beijing for what they are: the games of shame, held in a country that’s destroying the world with its power plants, its chemical companies, which has turned the sacred land of Tibet into its nuclear junkyard, and which has no intention to stop any time soon, in a country where freedom of opinion has been scratched from all the schoolbooks, and where they kill prisoners of opinion after having demanded their families pay for the bullet that’ll take the lives of their loved ones.

To unravel the glamor of an authoritarian midget who loves himself far too much to even begin to care about the people who were deluded by his populist speeches and voted him in power.

To see the FARC free their hostages.

To watch Hugo Chavez thwart the neo-cons and thrive, to see him seize victory in defeat, and to see this strange, strange man hold up in his hand another way, another path for people to choose.

To see either a woman or a man of color become the temporary owner of the White House.

To see if Pakistan can somehow defeat the looming shadow of chaos.

To see at last the Islam fanatics driven out of all the lands they've invaded, and in no particular order: Irraq, Sudan and the Darfur region, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Great Britain, and all the corners of shadow and dust that they haunt, cowards that they are.

To see if at last Palestine will be given its due, and will at last have a viable state, and if Israel will finally win free of the nightmarish path it has been following for so many years.

To discover the next seasons of Heroes, House M.D., Battlestar Galactica, Bones, Desperate Housewives, Life on Mars, Bones, Robin Hood.

To see the end of Saint Seiya adapted into anime.

To write a new piece of fiction (anyone who believed that When Blackbirds Sing would be the last occasion for me to waste bandwidth doesn't know me at all).

To remain as stubborn, selfish, insufferable and mean-tempered.

To refuse any kind of "new year resolutions".

366 days, and the afternoon of Winter in Greece, for the rain to fall gently on the scorched earth, for snow to glove the mountains with a soft cloak of pure white.

366 days, the afternoon of Winter and the glorious rise of Spring in Greece, for the forests to heal from the terrible fires of last Summer.

366 days, in which to look out for the sun, to try and bring more light to our world.

More peace.