Tag Archives: Politics

At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

Holocaust MemorialSo in amongst the one hundred and ninety eleven crazy things coming out of the White House was the President’s statement regarding Holocaust Remembrance Day. (I’d link to the official version but it seems to be removed from the White House site). The statement managed to omit any mention of Jews, genocide or anti-semitism. This is not an “honest mistake”, and no Trump spokesperson has since corrected the error. As Deborah Lipstadt wrote in the Atlantic;

The de-Judaization of the Holocaust, as exemplified by the White House statement, is what I term softcore Holocaust denial.

(It’s worth reading the whole of her article)

Indeed the White House statement refers to “innocent people”, here’s a screen grab I took from the video in the Times article linked above.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-16-03-28

We all know that Jews were not the only people the Nazis sought to persecute and kill, the list of victims includes Roma, journalists, trade unionists, homosexuals, anarchists, priests, intellectuals, the disabled, and many others.  The total death toll of the Holocaust is usually given as 11 million; roughly equivalent to the combined population of New York and Chicago.  The White House seems to be trying to whitewash its message as more “inclusive”, but it cannot be beyond the abilities of White House staffers to write an inclusive message of remembrance and mention Jews. This was a conscious attempt to remove Jews from Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I write this sitting in Amsterdam, a city with a nickname “Mokum” that comes directly from Yiddish.  The legacy of the World War II Nazi occupation of Amsterdam is visible throughout the city. Of the approximately 80,000 Jews living in Amsterdam in 1941 an estimated 80% were killed in Nazi death camps. I am a five minute walk from the house of the most famous resident to share that history; Anne Frank. The National Holocaust Museum is in this city, housed in a former theatre that the Nazis used as a holding centre for Jews about to be deported. There are monuments and subtle memorials around the city, on the Nieuwe Keizersgracht the names of those removed from their homes on the opposite side of the canal are set into the pavement. This is known as the “Schaduwkade”or Shadow Quay, alongside each name is the name of where they died; Auschwitz, Sobibor, Buchenwald. Places famous for their terror.

The near complete destruction of Amsterdam’s Jewish community is so well etched into the city’s history that I give a silent cheer when I see a menorah, or lights at Hannukah.

There is no forgetting here.

If the White House wants to remind us to remember other victims we can do that.

Under the Third Reich the Nazis;

  •  controlled the media
  • censored the arts
  • burnt books
  • implemented a police state in which arrests were arbitrary.
  • eliminated freedom of speech
  • eliminated freedom of the press
  • removed the functioning judicial system and established a court system that would deliver verdicts as instructed.
  • arrested and killed those who opposed them, often without a fair trail (yeah, that happens in a police state).
  • incarcerated millions of people and forced those they didn’t kill to live in starvation.
  • labelled those incarcerated with a coded triangle to represent their “crime”.
  • saw a mass exodus of Jews and other minorities who felt at risk from every territory they invaded, (and the world did not always accept those refugees, those who worked to get people to safety are remembered as heroes)

So yes Mr Trump and your cronies, on Holocaust Memorial Day we remember what was destroyed under the Nazi regime. All of it.

There will be other memorial days, most countries have their own war memorials and many Jewish communities around the world observe Yom HaShoah. The world is watching the US right now, in horror. I watch and hope that our descendants do not need to create new memorials for the outcomes of this current regime.

 

Post Script; I usually avoid politics and religion, but as I sat down to write a serious post on communication and technology this was the only thing that I could write about. Normal posting will resume next week. Maybe. 

 

Image: Holocaust Memorial 2  |  Ian Southwell  |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Open Government

There is a mismatch between the centralised vote once every x years mode of government and the current social network world.

How can governments open up, not just to share data but to involve citizens in key government processes?

Turns out some governments already are; several places have participatory budgeting, Rajastan uses a low-tech approach to keep government-spending honest, Russia and Lithuania are using Wikis to develop legislation. It’s a fascinating look at what governments can do to be more open in a social media era.

If government could really create an open route for discussing and creating policy it could be eye-opening; for all of us. I hope the people behind Digital Europe see this.

Glass Ceiling

This phrase is used to describe an invisible limit to a higher level. It’s most often used in reference to the barrier that keeps women from rising to the upper levels of management, despite having appropriate qualifications and experience.

Despite incredible success of individual women in business and public service roles, such as Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Hilary Clinton, the glass ceiling still exists. Many women make it to upper management levels, but few – very few, make it to the executive level of large companies.

It’s phrase that was probably most used in the 70s and 80s, there is some debate about who first used the term, and the concept was already referenced by Orwell in the 1930s but in a discussion of class difference.

Now that education and employment opportunities are gender equal the term shouldn’t be needed any more, but women still earn just 80% of what men earn in the US, and few companies have equal representation on the board room. Some commentators connect that to women’s own behaviour in the workplace – we’re not competitive, we don’t fight for it, we don’t network as well as men do. There may be some truth in that; amongst my women friends it’s unusual to ask for a promotion or pay rise – relying instead on a manager noticing your good work.

.

image The glass ceiling / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Campaign to reduce human trafficking

Or as the agency bills it “a campaign to reduce sales“, it’s launched by the South African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme (SACTAP) in the build up to the World Cup. They lead with the startling statistic that 4 million people disappear each year, “forced into labour and prostitution” which I guess is South Africa’s way of avoiding the word slavery.

Anyway the campaign is clever, you can see the effects on video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Campaign to reduce human trafficking“, posted with vodpod

You can see more video examples on this blog.

I’m a fan of interactive media like these and this is for a good cause.

Flying Green with EasyJet

I’ve just booked flights on EasyJet, and with a click I could offset my share of the carbon production of the flight.

Guilt free flights at the click of a button
Guilt free flights at the click of a button

When I fly for work my company offsets the carbon produced, but this is the first time I’ve been able to do it on a private flight.

I think it’s great, they’ve chosen UN certified partners for the carbon offsetting and are trying to do it at minimal cost to the customer. Their carbon offset programme seems to be reasonably well thought through.

They’ve been in trouble for some of their claims, apparently they referred to their flights as being lower carbon emitters per person than  a Prius. A pretty wild and easily refuted statement. However very few cars emit carbon at anything close to the 104 g/km rate quoted for the Prius, most people are driving cars at a higher emmission rate. So while the statement by EasyJet was incorrect, the concept behind the comparison was not so far off.

I know there’s a lot of “greenwash” out there, and people could argue that the company should avoid this externality and just pay for the carbon emmission themselves. However this seems like a really easy way of letting the consumer make greener choices. It’s too easy to demand that companies become carbon neutral but the forces us to put our money where our mouth is. I like it.

EasyJet could impress me more by showing me some statistics on how many people on my flight have paid for their emissions, and some overall reporting on how many people choose the option.

Social Media and Politics

Clay Shirky, author of “Here Comes Everybody“, is known for his thought on collaboration, networking and new ways of working in a networked world. Here he talks about the geometric increase in the conversations and the “global, social, ubiquitous and cheap” nature of social media.

The talk presages the global use of social media both within Iran and globally to share information and co-ordinate action around the Iran Election.

He points to Barack Obama’s campaign and the high impact social media had, indeed there is already a book on the subject “Yes we did” by Rahaf Harfoush (which I’ve just ordered).

Perhaps the most interesting comment is on the reverse transfer – in the Nigerian election in April 2007 voters used SMS as a “citizen watch” on what was happening at the polls. In November 2008 Americans used phone cameras to take images and video. Both actions had the same social objective, and both used the technology ubiquitous in the respective countries. But the idea started in a “developing” country and moved to a “developed” country. A reverse of what might be generally expected.

I’m reminded of a conversation reported in Don Tapscott’s book “Digital Economy” published in 1996. He’d asked his daughter to participate on a “consumer of the future” panel she answered

“… I don’t understand why you adults make such a big deal about technology. Kids just use computers to do stuff. We don’t think of them as technology. Like a fridge does stuff. It’s not technology. When I go to the fridge, I want food that is cold. I don’t think about the technology that makes food cold.”

I think the reason social media is so incredibly powerful is that we can forget the technology, and just be human.

Election Results Only a Little Bit Wrong

The Iranian authorities have admitted that there are some discrepancies in the election results.

Apparently the results in “only fifty cities” are wrong with more votes being recorded than eligible voters. Which seems in direct contrast to the announcement of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said 3 days ago that “the Islamic Republic would not cheat“.

There are, according to Wikipedia, around 250 cities in Iran, so apparently a 20% error rate is acceptable. Of these cities only 80 or so have a population greater than 100,000. So depending on which cities have the “errors” there could be an error rate even higher if taken on a population basis, it’s possible that 30% of Iranians cannot trust their local polling office based on the errors admitted.

But we should not worry – the number of “extra” votes was a mere 3 million, not enough to change the outcome of the election in an electorate with a total of 40 million voters. In other words even if there were no extra votes Ahmadinejad would still have won.

Anyway why are we worrying? No one protested like this when the US 2004 presidential election results were questioned. Yes, seriously that is an argument the Iranians are using in their defense. To quote;

“No one encouraged the American people to stage a riot” because they disagreed with the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004, he said.

Hmmm, it was the 2000 election that was seriously questioned, but then there were some transparent legal steps and an independent court that ultimately decided the outcome of the election. Even so, there was significant outrage at various pre-election and election counting practices.

In both elections foreign journalists commented and various citizens published their own voice of protest, as far as I know Michael Moore was never imprisoned/arrested/beaten/shot.

The top advisors in Iran don’t seem to get it. If there is any evidence of tampering for some of the votes, then no-one can trust any of the votes.

Admitting the election was a little bit wrong is like a woman saying she’s a little bit pregnant. Nonsense.

Twitter Green Avatars

As a post script to my last post, many people are adding green to their avatars on facebook/twitter in support for the Iran election protests. If you want to change your avatar here are some options;

I’ll add more as I find them. Once you’ve greened your icon you can add it to the greenwall (6550 added so far, and still counting).

Other bits and pieces of interest

  • To view images of the protests, there’s a flickr stream, the images range from hope-filled to gruesome.
  • To see search terms on the rise, here’s a google trends analysis of key terms.
  • To see trends across all social media here’s a collection, and another from Mashable.
  • Amnesty International’s reports are here

Other ways you can help

And a couple of things to watch out for;

  • be wary of the source of information, it seems the authorities are feeding misinformation into twitter
  • do not retweet names or avatars, twitter is being watched – and those tweeters are in danger

Twitter gets serious

The number 1 trending topic on Twitter right now is #iranelection.

twitter avatars in support of Iran
twitter avatars go green in support of Iran

Twitter has become so important that they’ve rescheduled their planned maintenance from a time that would suit America, but be in the middle of Tuesday morning Iran time, to a time that is the middle of the night in Iran, but within business hours in West Coast US. According to one commentator the reschedule was at the request of the US government.

With international news coverage from Iran limited, few diplomatic ties and other social media sites banned twitter has become a lifeline for news from Iran. Tips for following the aftermath of the Iran Elections have already been published.

The links supplied via Twitter go to a phenomenal number of different reports/blogs/images and video clips, there are links to Amnesty International, and mention of a denial of service attack on websites of the Iranian government.

As a show of support many tweeters are adding a touch of green to their avatar, either a green wash or specific green avatars. First seen on Monday, I think the first I noticed was Jason Pollock.

There are a lot of retweets so there is significant noise in the feed, but it’s clearly a flood of information. What the impact will be remains to be seen.

There have been 2382 tweets using the hashtag “iranelection” since I started writing this post.

.

POSTSCRIPT
Two days later and #iranelection is still the top trending topic on twitter. Here are some other articles/resources from around the web, mostly on the impact Twitter/social media has had.

G20 Protests

Now that the dust has settled on the G20 discussions and the protests maybe it’s time to understand what really went on.

I heard an interview on BBC World radio discussing the reporting on the events last week. In the journalist’s view (and sorry I didn’t catch his name) the violence had been almost a self-fulfilling prophecy and was largely generated by the police and the media. The police announcement that they “expected violence” signalled to more moderate protesters that they should stay away. Even so, there were many protesters there protesting on an issue basis – at the loss of their pension funds, at the loss of jobs, at the lack of effective regulation or at banker’s bonuses. There was a small group of extreme and violent protesters who led the charge into the RBS building.

The best online report I can find of the events comes from Al Jazeera – English.

It’s interesting, according to Hamish MacDonald the protesters were asking to leave the area when the police charged. The police were targetting a small group of protesters but it’s pretty hard to target a small group in a surging crowd.

But focus on the filmclip between 1.30 and 1.50, there’s an interesting ratio of protester:police:photographer

Crowds at the G20 protests
Crowds at the G20 protests
The police are holding their line against the protesters. But behind the protesters are banks of photographers. The ratio here seems to be 1:1:2

Breaking into RBS during the G20 protests
Breaking into RBS during the G20 protests
Here the protesters have broken into the RBS building, it’s a symbolic break-in – RBS has come to symbolise the worst wrongs of the crisis. But look, there are half a dozen protesters entering the building, no police visible, and many cameras. The ratio is 1:0:1

Two tenets of democracy are the right to protest and the right of free press. It looks as though those are both healthy in the UK.

One further tenet is linked to freedom of arrest or harassment by police. That’s looking a little doubtful. I wasn’t there – but seeing and reading first hand accounts it seems the police did the policing equivalent of opening a walnut with a sledgehammer.