Germans, too, demand referendum – for independence from U.S. yoke

 Thousands protest NSA spying in Germany

Thousands protest NSA spying in Germany

 

Protesters march in Berlin against internet surveillance by intelligence agencies,

chanting “freedom instead of fear”.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Berlin in protests against Internet surveillance activities by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies, and the German government’s perceived lax reaction to them.

Organisers, among them the opposition Greens, The Left and Pirates parties, said 20,000 people turned out in Saturday’s demonstration.

Police would not confirm the figure, saying only their “tally differs from that of the organisers”.

The protest was organised under the slogan “Freedom Rather Than Fear” and demonstrators carried banners saying: “Stop spying on us” and, more sarcastically: “Thanks to PRISM (the US government’s vast data collection programme) the government finally knows what the people want”.

“Intelligence agencies like the NSA shamelessly spy on telephone conversations and Internet connections… our government, one of whose key roles is the protection from harm, sends off soothing explanations,” said one protester, Kai-Uwe Steffens.

On Thursday, newly leaked documents alleged that US and British intelligence agencies have cracked the encryption that secures a wide range of online communications, including emails, banking transactions and phone conversations.

The documents provided by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden to The New York Times, ProPublica and The Guardian newspaper suggest that the spy agencies are able to decipher data even with the supposedly secure encryption designed to make it private.

While Europe is still in the process of consolidating and expanding its Union to cover each of the former east European Soviet states in its fold, several of its nation states are experiencing a season of referendum and secession demands. Thus, you have Scottish demanding to secede from England, Flemings from Belgium, Catalonians from Spain, and Venetians from Italy. Crimean example could only energize their resolve.

Crimeans may consider themselves lucky to have realized their wish without any bloodshed. But the influence it cast over the Russian-speaking majority in the Eastern Ukraine, prompting them to follow the Crimeans lead, has pitched Russia against US and EU with a potential to turn Ukraine into a vicious war theater and throw the whole world back into the Cold War era uncertainty and instability.

US and EU, while ruling out any military response, have already imposed some for-show-type sanctions (to appease domestic audiences) on Russia following Crimean accession, and are now repeatedly threatening to impose sweeping economic and financial sanctions if it doesn’t stop supporting pro-Russians in the Eastern Ukraine. Meantime, US and NATO started moving military assets and troops to Black Sea and some NATO-member countries close to Russia ostensibly to reassure allies there.

However, Russia is showing no signs of backing down and has warned of counter measures against the West. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has now issued a chilling warning of repeating Georgia if its interests in Ukraine are “attacked.”

EU may be in unison with the US on harping about hitting Russia with damaging economic costs but experts warn that EU is likely to suffer more from such a course than Russia. A look at the nature of economic relations between EU and Russia, for example by the New York Times and BBC, reveals that because of EU’s energy dependence on Russia (30% gas, 35% petroleum) economic sanctions could prove more disruptive in terms of industrial production and social cost for EU than Russia. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania could be left high and dry as they import nearl00y 100% of their energy requirements from Russia.

But it is Germany – the “EU’s economic powerhouse” – that will have far reaching negative impact on its own as well as, through trade linkages, on the overall EU economy. It is dependent on Russian energy sources (gas, oil and coal) more than any other EU country and will find itself in dire straits with no alternative energy source in sight for the foreseeable future. Der Spiegel estimates the country is at the risk of losing 300,000 jobs – a punishing demand on a population already suffering high unemployment. Headlining its report as ‘Economic War with Russia: A High Price for German Business’ Spiegel echoed German industry and public concern.

Brussels’ public posturing apart, EU member states do not seem to be wholly for the sanctions path. For instance, BBC mentions of “An official document, photographed as a senior official carried it into a meeting in Downing Street in March 2014, said the UK “should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians””  This is about the US’ most loyal European ally. Likewise, Spiegel report, mentioned above, reveals, “Members of the German government are keen to point out that many Eastern European politicians speak in far less radical terms behind closed doors than they do when addressing their citizens.”

So, why is EU threatening to take a course against Russia that it knows its member countries are not willingly in favor, more so when it knows Russia has out rightly rejected any pressure tactics to force it on course correction?

The short answer is American pressure. And the long answer is the US’ belief to be the guide, mentor and bodyguard of its less than intelligent village cousins who need to be kept under the scare of Russian ghost to enjoy for itself the global sway. After all, isn’t it Europe from where the US’ pulls out its “international community” to threaten and subdue its enemies?

Ordinarily when the US wants the EU’s role in any of its dirty international game, Britain, with about 70% of Germany’s GDP, gets the leadership role – just because of its greater loyalty to the US interests. And German Chancellor together with fellow Germans get monitored and spied — economic prowess, NATO membership or personal phone calls from the US president notwithstanding!

But it is now Germany – not Britain or France-that is being called upon to play the leadership role on behalf of the EU in squeezing Russia. Why? Simply because the German economy is much more interlinked to Russian economy and therefore could create problems for Russia. So the lure of leadership role to Chancellor Angela Merkel. What happens to German economy and German population as a consequence need not be of concern. Well, perhaps they haven’t done enough atonement for their war sins committed 70 years back. In any case Merkel will be there to take the flak.

When Chancellor Merkel decides on this US call it would serve her and her people well to remind herself of one simple fact: The singular contribution that trade and business ties with Putin’s Russia played in making Germany the “economic powerhouse of the EU.”

She also needs to ponder if the seven decades of subservience and paying reparations isn’t long enough of shame for her people – a people who have given world so much through art, culture, philosophy, science and technology and are known for hard work — to deserve a final break with the past and live their life with their heads high. Fair play demands that if any country or people truly deserved German apologies and reparations Russia and its people stand at the top for they suffered far more death and destruction than any other country and people at the hands of Hitler. But their suffering was never acknowledged — like Native Americans – and they never resented or complained.

Ukrainian situation presents a unique opportunity for Chancellor Merkel to extricate her nation from the long suffered guilt and shame, and at the same time exorcise the Russian ghost from the European psyche for good, depriving the US the immediate opportunity of using this fake card. All that achieving this outcome warrants Chancellor Merkel to decline doing dirty work for Washington’s game plan against Russia.

Failure on her part to avail this opportunity has the potential to extract a heavy price from everyone else, more so from the Germany, to the benefit of just one country – the US.

Would Chancellor Merkel grab this opportunity? Very, very doubtful, if her reaction to her phone tapping by the US gives us any clue. She is no Dilema Rouseff who, unlike Merkel’s meek surrender (without an apology plus tamely swallowing additional humiliation of refusal to honor her request by President Obama for access to her NSA file), didn’t stop at fuming and fretting over her phone tapping but went ahead to avenge her own and her people’s hurt and humiliation and snubbed President Obama by cancelling her state visit to Washington. Not satisfied, she then signed a $4.5 billion deal for the supply of fighter planes with the Swedish Saab over Boeing. There is no saying if she would ever forgive the US.

However, this doesn’t preclude availability of other options for the Germans. To my understanding (am quite appreciative of how foolhardy it is on my part to say this), the best and most powerful, legally tenable and within the ambit of democratic norms is that the German public take the initiative to deal this matter themselves. It would require them muster courage and demand a referendum to decide whether to continue living with the imposed infamy and keep on playing to foreign dictates or throw away the 70 year old US yoke and redeem their right as a truly sovereign nation to decide their foreign, defense and economic policies without US fetters and dictates, and play their rightful role on the international geopolitical arena. ­

Good luck, Germany!

Spain vs Basques Independentists

The Spanish interior minister has bestowed the country's top policing medal on the Virgin Mary, writes Fernandez [Reuters]

The Spanish Interior Minister has bestowed the country’s top policing medal on the Virgin Mary [Reuters]

Dubious policing awards and ‘Operation Spider’:

Is the Generalissimo’s ghost haunting austerity-stricken Spain?

Last week, Spain’s Guardia Civil – the Civil Guard or gendarmerie – detained 21 social media users for allegedly “glorifying terrorism” on Twitter and Facebook. Fifteen of them were apprehended in the northern Spanish regions of Navarre and the Basque Country, an area that has long harboured separatist aspirations. Two were minors.

If convicted, the tweeters and Facebookers will face up to two years in prison. Among the alleged glorifications of terrorism, apparently, was a tweeted map of the Basque Country, emblazoned with the Basque word for independence.

Given the nutty news content that has become the norm in this country as of late, many Spaniards perhaps did not bat an eye. First there were the headlines surrounding the proposed Citizens’ Security Law, which prescribes fines of up to 600,000 euros ($835,500) for unauthorised street protests – and up to 1,000 euros ($1,400) for losing one’s identity document more than three times in five years.

Then there was the news that the Spanish interior minister had taken it upon himself to bestow the country’s top policing medal on the Virgin Mary. In addition to generally being reserved for human recipients, the award is intended to honour policemen who have been killed or wounded in the line of duty. (The ministry of the interior has now been dubbed the “monastery of the interior” by certain media, and a petition has surfaced at change.org requesting a similar medal for Spiderman.)

But the Virgin, it seems, has done a less than stellar job of policing Twitter in recent weeks – hence the necessity of the anti-terror intervention by the Guardia Civil. The social media sweep has incidentally been christened “Operation Spider”.

Crime and punishment, or lack thereof

Let’s take a look at the content of some of the other terror-tweets and Facebook statuses aside from the aforementioned map.

In a Facebook post, one of the persons later detained complained that, although the Spanish state had condemned the Basque armed separatist group ETA as “evil terrorists” based on the assassinations and killings it perpetrated, “the banks are killing people every day and nothing happens; [rather], the state protects and defends them”.

This, of course, would appear to be a relatively sober analysis of the contemporary situation in austerity-stricken Spain, where, in 2012, banks were overseeing approximately 500 home evictions per day, prompting a surge in suicides. It’s not clear when drawing attention to state hypocrisy became a crime.

This oppression is clearly visible in the haphazard crackdown on persons who tweet Basque Country maps or quotes from the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci – as reportedly happened last year. Predictably, no such punitive measures are undertaken against social media users who glorify rightwing and state terror.

But there I go glorifying terrorism.

To be sure, some of the social media dispatches in question are in poor taste, and include offensive references to innocent victims of ETA operations. However, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out in the past, there is a context that explains the existence of such groups and their supporters: “ETA came out of repression and persecution, not out of nothing.”

Indeed, the organisation’s origins lie in the dictatorship of the late Francisco Franco, who is credited with the killing of an estimated 113,000 people during and after the Spanish civil war. Franco nurtured a special hatred for the Basque region, and much of the repression during his rule was carried out by none other than the Guardia Civil – the same entity that is now helping to criminalise 140-character texts on Twitter. One of the targeted tweets involved a photograph of the 1973 bombing assassination of Franco’s appointed successor Luis Carrero Blanco, with the caption “I WANT TO FLYYYYYYYYY AND FLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.”

Unfortunately for Spain’s alleged crime-fighters, the issue of impunity opens up a major can of worms. Thanks to a post-Franco amnesty law, there has not been an iota of justice enacted by the Spanish system on behalf of the victims of Francoist crimes. This means that the two years of prison time potentially facing deviant tweeters is a full two years more than the amount of prison time faced by, for example, torture-happy police inspectors.

Selective memory

According to Messuti, memory is the “only ally in the combat against impunity”. But, as she notes, “memory is in the brain of a man or woman, and the brain is in a body, and a body is bound to die”.

One of countless testaments to this simple process of biocerebral destruction is my father’s relative Adela Centurion, who died over a decade ago at the age of 92. Following the Spanish civil war, she had spent six years in prison for having prepared and delivered food to her two brothers, guerrillas in the anti-Franco resistance in Andalusia. The brothers were executed. You could say that when Adela and her memory died, they were executed again.

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland wrote in 2011 that Spain “has lacked the catharsis that can come with a full reckoning with the past”. Prospects for such a reckoning have dwindled even further with the ascension to power of the rightwing Popular Party (PP), about which Freedland reported pre-ascension: “Several times I was told that too many luminaries of the PP have family ties with the Franco regime: They are the sons and daughters of those who served the caudillo.”

The problem with refusing to confront the past is not just that human suffering goes unacknowledged and uncompensated – it’s also that you end up with elements of history repeating themselves. This is not to say that Spain is suddenly going to find itself in front of a fascist firing squad but rather that government oppression will continue to occur under the guise of protecting citizens from terrorism and violence.

Rightwing impunity?

This oppression is clearly visible in the haphazard crackdown on persons who tweet Basque Country maps or quotes from the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci – as reportedly happened last year. Predictably, no such punitive measures are undertaken against social media users who glorify rightwing and state terror.

As has been pointed out in the satirical magazine El Jueves – which is no doubt having a field day under the current regime – Spanish journalist Hermann Tertsch once composed a tweet insisting that “democracy would have applauded” the execution by Franco of Catalonian politician and lawyer Lluis Companys. Far from a marginalised and irrelevant individual, Tertsch happens to be the former sub-director of one of Spain’s most prominent newspapers, and presently boasts 57,000 followers on Twitter.

Nor have any crackdowns apparently been deemed necessary against rightwing student groups that attack meetings of victims of the dictatorship, “throwing notebooks, umbrellas, chairs [and] tables”.

El Jueves contends that the Spanish government “is interested in keeping the ghost of ETA alive and well… If people have their heads between their legs, they won’t be able to see how empty their pockets are”.

As for other sorts of ghosts, the same article recalls a tweet by Angel Lara, a member of the New Generations – the youth organisation of the PP – expressing a desire for Franco’s return “even though he’ll die when he sees what Spain has become”.

Luckily for Lara and like-minded tweeters, it doesn’t look like the Generalissimo’s ghost will be dying any time soon. Maybe it’ll even get its own policing medal.

The Strokes will release a new album before they play live again

The Strokes

The Strokes

Albert Hammond Jr has said The Strokes will release a new album before they tour again.

The guitarist previously stated that the band, who are onfirmed to make their live return at the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York on June 7, will hopefully record a new album next year (2015).
 
Speaking to Gigwise about the band’s live dates and hopes for new material, the guitarist revealed that he expects there will be a new album before the band embark on a full tour again.

“I know that when The Strokes tour again, it will be because we put something out – even though we didn’t tour the last one,” he says. “Doing a few festivals before you put something out is kind of gearing up the big machine, it just kind of helps everyone get ready, mentally, financially and it brings you back to your audience. You can see the audience’s reaction to your music and you just ‘feel’ again.”

Speaking about the Governors Ball show, Hammond continues: “I think it was just that Julian was trying to figure out his solo thing and I don’t know when he’s doing it, but we got this offer and we all agreed on it – but more importantly he agreed on it. He’s the leader of the band, and we usually say yes to playing shows. I imagine that’ll start something, it always does but it’s just too soon. He’s swamped with his solo stuff and I can’t even begin to stress him out with, like, ‘What are doing?’ I know he’s singing a song that we recorded and he’s in the studio trying to do something, so we’ll see.”

Albert Hammond Jr is currently on tour in UK and he has been playing material from The Strokes’ 2013 album ‘Comedown Machine’ in his set. Fan footage of him playing ‘One Way Trigger’ at Newcastle’s O2 Academy 2 on May 6 can be seen here.

Albert Hammond Jr’s UK tour continues throughout May. He will play:

Oxford O2 Academy 2 (May 9)
Birmingham Glee Club (11)
Nottingham The Bodega (12)
Bristol Fleece (13)
London Village Underground (15)

Black Keys Plan Massive North American Tour This Fall

blackkeys-600-1399557199

Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys performs in Quebec City, Canada. Photo: Scott Legato/Getty Images

Band will be joined by Cage the Elephant, Jake Bugg and St. Vincent at various points during the trek.

The Black Keys will spend this fall hoofing it across North America on a massive tour behind their new record Turn Blue. After a headlining slot at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama and a stretch of dates in Europe, the band will kick off their North American tour at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio on September 5th and wrap things up at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO on December 21st.

The band has also tapped various openers for the multi-leg trek: Cage the Elephant will join the group between September 5th and the 27th, up-and-coming UK rocker Jake Bugg will open shows from October 24th to November 16th and St. Vincent will take over from December 4th to the 21st.

You can check out a full list of dates below, as well as a silly tour announcement video in which a disgraced Dan Auerbach tries to make amends but receives only laughter and cheers, while the mere site of Patrick Carney elicits a swarm of boos.

 

 

 

The Black Keys’ video game has been on point, per usual, during the lead up to Turn Blue. After teasing the record with clips featuring a wackadoo hypnotist, the band went to church in the new video for “Fever,” with Auerbach preaching the gospel as a sweat-drenched televangelist.

Turn Blue, which follows up the Black Keys’ 2011 LP El Camino, sees official release on May 13th, but you can stream the album in its entirety now.

9/5 Columbus, OH – Schottenstein Cente
9/6 Cleveland, OH – Quicken Loans Arena
9/7 Grand Rapids, MI – Van Andel Arena
9/9 Milwaukee, WI – BMO Harris Bradley Center
9/10 Louisville, KY – KFC Yum! Center
9/12 Detroit, MI – Joe Louis Arena
9/13 Pittsburgh, PA – CONSOL Energy Center
9/14 Rochester, NY – Blue Cross Arena
9/16 Toronto, Ontario – Air Canada Centre
9/18 Montreal, Quebec – Bell Centre
9/20 Philadelphia, PA – Wells Fargo Center
9/21 Boston, MA – TD Garden
9/24 Brooklyn, NY – Barclays Center
9/25 Washington, DC – Verizon Center
9/27 Chicago, IL – United Center
10/24 Minneapolis, MN – Target Center
10/25 Winnipeg, Manitoba – MTS Centre
10/27 Calgary, Alberta – Scotiabank Saddledome
10/28 Edmonton, Alberta – Rexall Place
10/30 Vancouver, British Columbia – Pacific Coliseum
10/31 Portland, OR – Moda Centers
11/1 Seattle, WA – KeyArena
11/9 San Diego, CA – Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl
11/10 Phoenix, AZ – US Airways Center
11/12 Salt Lake City, UT – Maverik Center
11/13 Denver, CO – Pepsi Center
11/15 Houston, TX – Toyota Center
11/16 Dallas,TX – American Airlines Center
12/4 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Arena
12/5 Raleigh, NC – PNC Arena
12/6 Richmond, VA – Richmond Coliseum
12/8 Nashville, TN – Bridgestone Arena
12/9 St. Louis, MO – Scottrade Center
12/11 Atlanta, GA – Philips Arena
12/12 Charlotte, NC – Time Warner Cable Arena
12/13 Greenville, SC – Bon Secours Wellness Arena
12/15 Ft. Lauderdale, FL – BB&T Center
12/16 Tampa, FL – Tampa Bay Times Forum
12/17 Orlando, FL – Amway Center
12/19 Austin, TX – Frank Erwin Center
12/20 Tulsa, OK – BOK Center
12/21 Kansas City, MO – Sprint Center