...American or otherwise. I'm aware the US never agreed to the International Criminal Court, even before 9/11, but it did sign to uphold the Geneva Convention (I remember this being brought up back when the Abu Ghraib news exploded) , and even if you postulate this "only" counts for prisoners of war, this article mentions that Reagan signed and the US ratified the United Nations convention against torture, which covers every human being, pow or not. So, in theory, shouldn't it be possible to sue Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al for authorizing and encouraging torture? Even within the US itself? I mean, I'm aware it would never come to any convictions. I'm not that naive. But it could maybe make it more difficult for a while longer for these guys to rewrite the past.

Also, there's some legal precedent. In 2003, Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric who had been granted asylum in Italy, was kidnapped in Milan. The CIA then secretly transported him to Egypt. In November 2009, an Italian court convicted 22 CIA agents, one US military official and two Italian intelligence operatives to at least five years imprisonment for their role in the kidnapping. The CIA agents were convicted in absentia and never extradited, but they were convicted, and presumably can't work in Europe anymore for a while. Would it be too much to at least limit Rumsfeld etc.'s ability to travel in the same way?
Not so coincidentally, I just finished reading, for the first time though of course I'd watched the movie by Alan Pakula a dozen times, All the President's Men, the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about the Watergate case and their reporting of it. It still holds up incredibly well. Despite knowing a lot about the Watergate affair in advance, and the awareness Bob Woodward will end up as the prototype of the embedded reporter in love with power a few years down the line, the narrative is gripping, suspenseful, and despite featuring a huge cast (even huger than the movie, which prudently jettisoned a few players as movies must to get it down to a two hour tale), you never lose sight of all the interconnections or the developments. The various politicians, hangers-on, Washington Post staff people are given pen portraits, and what surprised me was that Bernstein apparantly was willing to either write himself or have included - all is written in third person, so you can't tell who wrote what - scenes which poke fun at him (Woodward not so much), like this one about a conference with the recently deceased Ben Bradlee ending:

Bernstein was dissappointed to see the meeting end. The editor had pushed his left sleeve up, and Bernstein had seen a tattoo of a rooster. Bernstein momentarily forgot about Watergate. Bradlee, whom he regarded with an unhealthy imbalance of respect, fear, anger and self pity (Bradlee didn't understand him, he had decided long before) was always amazing him. He wished he'd gotten a better look at the tattoo.

Because Woodward and Bernstein for a while ended up is the iconic reporters, it's easy to overlook how young they were when this all went down, and stuff like this humanizes them. (Another Bernstein-making-fun-of-himself scene is when his bike got stolen and he reflects how typical this is: when Woodward goes into a garage, it's to meet Deep Throat, when he goes, it's to find the remains of a lock and a stolen bike.)

Such neat touches aside: what makes the book is of course the story it tells, and the relentless way it traces and uncovers the corruption of the political process all the way back to the White House. (And Woodward & Bernstein, unlike today's readers, weren't even familiar with the paranoid Nixon rants immortalized on tape when writing this, as the book ends before Nixon leaves office.) Though it's not a little depressing that a lot of the campaign tactics they uncover today are taken for granted. To use a list from mid book: bugging, following people, false press leaks, fake letters, cancelling campaign rallies, investigating campaign workers private lives, planting spies, stealing documents, planting provocateurs in political demonstrations.

Planting spies and bugging, we were told by White House officials (and a lot of other people of all parties and persuasions) more recently, is absolutely okay because everyone does it. It's not something even Richard Nixon came up with as an excuse. (His most famous quote in the Frost interview being "if the President does it, it's not illegal", which is a similar idea, more personalized.) Which brings me to, you guessed it, Laura Poitras' movie Citizenfour about Edward Snowden and surrounding circumstances. But before I talk about the movie itself, some thoughts which have been plagueing me for a while. It is this: why didn't become Snowden, Greenwald and Poitras the new Woodward and Bernstein in the eyes of the American public? Especially the not conservative part of it? They certainly did in my part of the world (Germany), but within the States, at least compared to over here, the reactions were pretty much blasé. The right wing attacks on Obama focus on other stuff, and the democratic/progressive criticism of Obama and his government that I've seen mostly seems to be divided between a) "Why can't you be more like... *insert past democratic president of choice with ability to schmooze and intimidate other politicians on a nose-to-nose level*", b) "Why so sloppiliy organized?" , and c) "Where's the promised change, this "the Republicans are blocking everything" excuse isn't doing it for me anymore". Whereas voices like Daniel "Pentagon Papers" Ellsberg's are rare, who firmly rejected John Kerry (and Obama) saying Snowden should have done as Ellsberg did and faced a trial in the US by stating he wouldn't do that in the current day US, either (and good lord, when you're told your government is less trustworthy in terms of human rights abuse than Richard Nixon's...), and witheringly added: (Snowden) would have no chance whatsoever to come home and make his case – in public or in court. Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment). More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. (...) Without reform to the Espionage Act that lets a court hear a public interest defense – or a challenge to the appropriateness of government secrecy in each particular case – Snowden and future Snowdens can and will only be able to "make their case" from outside the United States. (...) John Kerry's challenge to Snowden to return and face trial is either disingenuous or simply ignorant that current prosecutions under the Espionage Act allow no distinction whatever between a patriotic whistleblower and a spy. Either way, nothing excuses Kerry's slanderous and despicable characterizations of a young man who, in my opinion, has done more than anyone in or out of government in this century to demonstrate his patriotism, moral courage and loyalty to the oath of office the three of us swore: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Ouch. But like I said, Mr. Ellsberg as far as American voices are concerned seems to be in a distinct minority. And I don't think the reason is just the public as a whole having become fare more jaded. Becaube, Democrats, Liberals and Progressives on my list, ask yourself, and I'm truly curious: if Snowden had blown the whistle under a Republican president - doesn't matter who, McCain or Romney if they had won their respective elections, or Bush back when - would your reaction have been different? (And it could have easily happened. I don't think any Republican - or any alternate Democrat President, for that matter, i.e. Hillary Clinton if she'd won against Obama in the primaries - would have given the NSA & Co. less leaveway to spy on everyone than the Obama administration did.) Would you have been not only more outraged, but also seen the sheer extent of the licence to spy as something that does reflect the President's personal responsibility the way Watergate did reflect Nixon's? Because I really think the reason why Obama gets more leaveway here than any Republican President would have gotten is because Obama-as-bad-guy really, really, really doesn't fit into the narrative moderate-to-progressive Americans want to hear. Partly because it automatically associates right wing nutters (though these attack him for other reasons) and the sense of not wanting to give them more ammunition, I suppose. But partly because they seem so far apart: Tricky Dicky, Nixon paranoidly taping himself ranting about the Jews/Gays/Press/, and the first black President. He's supposed to be, at worst, the hero who couldn't due to the mess his predecessor left and the Republicans blocking his every move, not the licenser of tactics which any of the titular President's Men from Nixon's time would have wept for joy to be able to use legally.

Now, on to Poitras' movie. Which definitely treats Obama as one of its villains. He's not the prime target, which is the post 9/11 mass surveillance and the total lack of any checks on it in general, and it's made clear early on by veteran whistleblower William Binney, who quit the NSA in 2001, that the Bush administration started this, but among other things, Citizenfour is an indictement of Barack Obama. Glenn Greenwald early on in the film quotes from Obama's campaign speeches (for his first run), all quotes condemming what he now practices. Then Edward Snowden in his first physical meeting with Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald names as one of his key motivations the fact that the Obama administration contrary to its promises didn't reduce or curtail the surveillance but escalated it. And while Poitras throughout the film uses clips of various government officials (Keith Alexander, former NSA head, and various guys from the justice department) denying with bland smugness what the film then shows going on, the climax this builds up is a cut from the Guardian staff being forced to destroy hardware to Glenn Greenwald's partner David being held back at Heathrow after a meeting with her in Berlin to a newsclip of Obama (even smugger than the previous officials) saying Snowden was no patriot and should return to the US where lawful trial would happen. (At this point there was scornful laughter in the cinema.) And the very end of the movie, when Greenwald tells Snowden about a new source and its revelations, he draws the chain of responsibility on paper culminating in the letters POTUS, where camera lingers as a next to last final image.

Poitras' biggest problem as film maker must have been that this documentary by necessity takes place largely in hotel rooms where two or three people talk (or type), which potentially could have come across very static and boring. But she managed to avoid this trap, not least because Snowden and Greenwald (who do much of the talking, with fellow Guardian journalist Ewen MacArgill occasionally there as well) both come across as articulate and compelling. And as with All the President's Men, even though you know the rough outline of how this goes in advance - Snowden makes contact, eventually they meet in that Hongkong hotel room, data is transferred, explanation are given, Geenwald starts to release the stories, on the fourth day Snowden's identity is released as well, etc. - the way it plays out on screen remains captivating. Also like All the President's Men, the book, there's unexpected humor: when Poitras tells Snowden (via written communication online, since he's in Russia at that point) that the Merkel story is a go, but the German government hasn't publically reacted yet, Snowden types back whether she has tried to call Angela M. directly since she now has the number. :) There's even a mini subplot, as you'd say if this were a fictional story, about Snowden's girlfriend whom he worries about in Hongkong and whom we in the last five minutes of the film see has joined him in Russia in July this year.

It's, of course, an unabashedly partisan documentary, cum ira et studio, and never pretends to be anything else: the opening credits establish Poitras has been under surveillance since her first post 9/11 movie on the Iraq War, and while you get to know Snowden and Greenwald in the intimacy and extensive length of those hotel room conversations, administration members are only shown in (smug) newsclips. But the main argument, which Poitras lets Binney, Greenwald and Snowden make repeatedly, and also Joseph Applebaum, that surveillance is control, there are no restraints and no watchers on these watchmen anymore, that only a tiny part of the collected material actually can in any way be connected to counterterrorism and the rest is about competition between firms, industrial espionage and utter disregard of any privacy whatsover, and that the self censorship of people is already an every day fact because of this - all this can hardly be told dispassionatedly. Ditto for the point Snowden's pro bono lawyers later make about the Espionage act, which dates from WWI and doesn't differentiate between a whistleblower and a spy (Ellsberg has quite a lot to say about it in his article as welll) and gives the person indicted by it no chance of defense.

Stylistically noteworthy: as opposed to Michael Moore, who made his persona a part of all his films, Poitras remains invisible, though her voice is present throughout the film. And the clips she uses to establish the various locations (Hongkong, Berlin, Rio de Janairo) never show the obvious tourist sights; the most striking images not involving a person aren't of the cities, though, but of the NSA complexes being built in the US and the ones already existing in Britain and Germany, those ominous white balloons in front of landscapes.

Is the end result then a great movie? I don't know. But it's an important one, I think. And I hope it will be watched by as many people as possible.
So, during the last week we had, in my part of the world, repeated headlines about the senate report on the CIA and its torture practices during the Bush years, mostly focused around the "revelation" that said torture didn't get any results and that what results were achieved by the CIA, they got first, then tortured anyway, then filed reports to make it look better for themselves by reversing the order of events. Then again, there also was apparantly pressure from above to use "enhanced interrogation techniques" against at least some field agent's reccommendations. Various comments to these articles included the suggestion that this was the CIA taking the fall for the government because of course they carried out wishes. The use of torture itself was, of course, old news. It's noticeable that after more than a decade, nobody bothers with the "a few rotten apples" disclaimer anymore which came with both the few army (Abu Ghraib) and the CIA incidents that were reported back in the day.

Meanwhile, also in the news: George W. Bush opens an exhibition of his paintings. The paintings, various reviews inform us, are nicely avarage, neither bad nor particularly good, and Dubya himself just such an affable guy.

This is why political satire has become redundant.

I mean, there never was a chance that Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney would end up in The Hague on trial, but maybe some hope that the distaste of the public for them would last a little longer than that. And, as much as it's a "go after the tool, not the wielder" unfairness, maybe some chance that some of the actual torturers would face charges, but, so the articles on the Senate report reminded us, the Obama government had refused to charge a single CIA agent in this regard. (Undoubtedly aware that doing so would establish precedence and allow some future person to charge agents for what they did during the Obama years as well, which, while not waterboarding, still would include illegal activities.)

I wonder: did a single reporter interviewing Bush about his painting activities even try to ask him how he feels about the going two wars he started, and the fact that under his government, torture became an accepted interrogation method?

(Where is a shoe-throwing Iraqui if one needs one?)
This morning there was an interview with Bryan Cranston in the NY Times, about playing Lyndon B. Johnson in All The Way. It's a good interview, and I knew this was his upcoming project, but somehow I'd missed out on the fact this was a theatre play, not a movie or tv miniseries. Which is great for theatre goes in New York but sad for transatlantic me, who thus won't get to watch Cranston in said role. And I'd love to: Cranston bringing out all the ambiguities, the flaws and virtues of Johnson surely will be awesome to behold.

The other reason why I'd have been looking forward to watching the film or tv product this isn't: it wouldn't, couldn't fall into the two categories American dramas seem to when featuring a President in a prominent role: if Nixon, then a tragic villain, if Lincoln, then a noble saint. Johnson's reputation has had its ups and downs, but seems to have settled for "Great Society Awesome, Vietnam Bad" as far as his presidency is concerned, and "Most efficient Senator and Democratic Leader in the Senate Ever/Totally Not Above Stealing If He Needed To" for the decades before that. I remember Ted Kennedy in his memoirs calling him the best American President post-Roosevelt, but even his enemies seem to agree that Johnson, for good or ill, got things done. The Cranston article summarizes: But in 2014, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty, with anniversaries of two other Great Society triumphs, the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, a year away, Johnson endures as something far more interesting and even inspiring: the last and perhaps greatest of all legislative presidents, with his wizardly grip on the levers of governance at a time when it was still possible for deals to be brokered and favors swapped and for combatants to clash in an atmosphere of respect, if not smiling concord. And before that: The story of a ruthless president who got things done — without blinking at the costs and compromises — reminds us that partisan gridlock doesn’t have to be a permanent condition.

There is a pointed if unspoken comparison here to the current President. In all the non-Republican criticisms of Obama (and non-foreign: in my part of the world, he and the entire US government are currently under fire for something else altogether), the constant red thread seems to be that he's too aloof and hands-off to mingle with anyone in Washington outside his inner circle; that something like "the Johnson Treatment" (which, Wikipedia tells me, was the nickname for Johnson's tried and true method of cajoling, intimidating, flattering and terrorizing - whatever worked - Congressmen and Senators alike) would be unthinkable. (Ditto for Clinton-style arm-pressing and socializing.) To which the defense in the recent New Yorker profile of Obama was that in the current climate, with the Republicans so dead set to object to anything from the government, it wouldn't be of use anyway. Which is probably true, but it strikes me that one reason why types like Johnson wouldn't even make it to the presidency these days (except the way LBJ did, i.e. as Vice President taking over from a suddenly dying incumbent) is that both Republican and Democrat candidates harp on presenting themselves as outsiders to the Washington scene. No matter how accurate or not, every candidate spins it like he/she is the noble saviour from outside, untainted by poisonous inside politics and corruption, and voters reward that. That the result isn't change but even more obstruction and inertia isn't really surprising, if you think about it.

Now, the recent Lincoln did show some political manoeuvring and cajoling and showed Lincoln as savvy in addition to being noble, but it still couldn't resist te occasional half profile shot where you expect him to have a halo because of the way he's lighted, and also, being the President who ended slavery and was assassinated means you don't have to convince the majority of the audience he was a good guy. Johnson, otoh, has the Vietnam albatros around his neck, and that's before you get into conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination or more reliable tales about his intimidation tactics which make him sound like the Gene Hunt of Presidents. (Phlipp Glennister for Johnson if the play is a success and comes to London?) And then, it's impossible to end his story on a triumphant note for anyone: he leaves office, Vietnman gets even worse, America gets Nixon, and the days of major liberal laws being passed and being put into practice, are over for the next few decades. In conclusion and back to the beginning, I'm really curious about this play, and endlessly frustrated I won't get to see it.
So the latest Snowden revelation is that the US is/was bugging our chancellor's mobile phone. This caused not a few "oh, NOW she gets upset, when we've complaining about the outrage of American spying since July" from our media, but they also agree it's a particularly nasty kick in the teeth in a whole series of same that make for US foreign policy. I mean, as the Guardian puts it in this article, who needs enemies if you have the United States of America as your friend?

"Top of that list of questions is what exactly does it mean to be an American ally in the 21st century. Germany and France are Nato partners. Their soldiers have fought and died alongside American troops in Afghanistan. Mexico is fighting a bloody battle with drug cartels with America and on its behalf. The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, whose phone was also monitored by the NSA, was an American critic but by no means an adversary."

Mind you, getting your phone bugged seems harmless next to, say, drone strikes - or, as the Guardian also puts it, here:

Take drone attacks, which are Obama's weapon of choice in the new phase of the war on terror. They are reckoned to have killed up to 3,613 (926 of them civilians, including 200 children) in Pakistan alone. Amnesty International this week argued that US officials should stand trial over evidence of war crimes in the Pakistan drone campaign. Human Rights Watch has made a similar case over the slaughter in Yemen.

And given that, yes, all the governments protesting do their own share of spying, it's easier to have sympathy with the case of a private citizen disbarred from entering the US for having been critical (i.e. Ilja Trojanew earlier this month) than with Ms. Merkel, who has been downplaying the whole NSA affair for months until presented with this latest bit of news. But it sticks in the throat nonetheless, as one more bone to swallow.
Back in Munich as of last night, and somewhat damaged, as I caught what's referred to as "The Book Fair cold", i.e. the inevitable result of spending a week in circulated air with millions of people. But never mind that - it was a thoroughly busy and splendid fair for me, with the Book Trade Peace Award yesterday given to Svetlana Alexejivich meaning it went out on a high note. I must confess I hadn't read anything of hers before, but I most certainly will now.

Svetlana Alexijevich, who is from Belarus, had a few scholarships abroad but always went back home and still lives there, despite the fact that she's no longer allowed to be published there, having run foul of the Belarus dictator. Her three most famous works, all non-fiction novels a la In Cold Blood, are (and I'm using the German titles translated into English here, so maybe the English titles are different) : "War has no female face" which dealt with the then completely unexplored part Soviet women played during WWII (this brought her the accusation of maligning the Great Patriotic War, and it couldn't get published until the onset of Perestroika in 1985), "Boys in Tin" about the Russian/Afghan war and specifically the soldiers coming back to a Soviet Union which no longer existed, having fought in a deeply unpopular war, and being thoroughly damaged, often suicidal. When there were quotes from this book in the speeches I was struck by how you could change "Russian" for "American" and "socialism" for "democracy" and have the exact same passage written today: "Kabul 1988. An Afghan hospital. A young Afghan woman, her child in her arms. I approach her and give the child a teddy bear. It takes it with its teeth. "Why does he take the teddy with his teeth?" I ask. The Afghan woman drops the thin cover in which she had wrapped her child, and I look at a small torso without any arms or legs. "That's what you Russians did."
"She doesn't understand," the Sovjet captain standing next to me says, "we brought them socialism."
"Go home and practice socialism there. Why did you come here?" says an old Afghan man who is missing a leg. (...) Then I am in a canteen. Troubled faces of our boys, who don't understand for what they're dying here. They reply angrily to me: Shoot or be shot, such questions as yours have to wait until after the war. If you shoot, you kill first; if you don't shoot, you get killed. All want to get home to their mothers. Some were made drunk with vodka, put in a plane, and in the same night they arried in Kabul. They cried, screamed, attacked the officers. Two committed suicide. They hung themselves in the restroom. Others volunteered. Children of village teachers, of doctors - they were educated to trust in their country... they will return home within a year, and the country which sent them out to kill will no longer exist."

This book brought her a lot of lawsuits for "slander of the Sovjet army", and more were to come when she wrote the definite book on Chernobyl, "Chernobyl: Chronicle of the Future": "The firemen who fought the fire during the first night all died. A nuclear reactor, and they were called as if to a normal fire; they were not given any protective suits. They each got radiactive poisoning over hundred times the lethal limit. The doctors did not let their wives to them. (...) In a thirty kilometres radius around the plant, thousands of people left their homes - forever. Early on nobody would believe that. Buses full of people and a quietness as if in a cemetery. Around the buses there were a lot of pets - dogs, cats. The pets were left. The humans didn't dare to look at them. 'The birds in the skies, the animals in the woods - we all betrayed them. Our beloved dog Sharik we left a note; 'Forgive us, Sharik.'"

These are all quotes from Svetlana Alexejevich's acceptance speech, and which, like the laudatory speech by Karl Schlögel, was full of such vivid detail going right under the skin. One of the most remarkable things about her: that all these interviews did not make her into a cynic or nihilist, on the contrary. That she still believes in reaching humans when she transcribes their voices.

Something else: usually the Book Trade Peace Award is given in the presence of the President. Only twice it wasn't, and today was the third time, which was why a few demonstrators were outside holding up pictures of Joachim Gauck saying "where are you?". Speculation from the guests was that yes, this was for political reasons. Instead of him, our equivalent of the Mr. Speaker in Parliament come, Norbert Lammert (ranking of German offices: President - who hasn't got political powers but represents the republic -, Chancellor, Mr. or Ms Speaker), and at the celebratory lunch afterwards, he thanked Svetlana Alexejevich for "exposing the so called lupenreine Demokraten as the autocrats and dictators they are". This was a pointed allusion to a phrase former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had used when palling around with Vladimir Putin, whom he described as a "lupenreiner Demokrat" ("a democrat even if you use a microscope to look at him"), which is remembered as particularly shameful not just because, well, Putin, but because Schröder immediately after his tenure as Chancellor ended went to work for Gazprom, the Russian oil-and-gas giant.

Earlier during the Book Fair, I had chatted with Gert and Gisela Heidenreich, both writers, and she told me that back when Schröder said this she left the party (i.e. the SPD) even though she still considers herself a social democrat in her politics. Almost as depressing, they both said, is what's going on with the US right now; one of the oldest ongoing democracies self destructing, inwardly because of the crazy Tea Party nutters and outwardly because of the paranoia and disregard of anyone else's rights. After what happened to Ilja Trojanov, Gert Heidenreich was wondering whether he'll be refused entry the next time he has to attend a conference in the US as well, given he wrote as critical things as Trojanov did. And Guantanomo continues while nobody cares. He had another thing on his mind: during the last two years, he'd worked with director Edgar Reitz on the later's project Die andere Heimat, "The other Heimat" (we had a lengthy discussion of how Heimat is an untranslatable German term because it really is not at all the same as Fatherland/Vaterland), which had its premiere during the last weeks to raving reviews. Now Gert Heidenreich developed the story with Edgar Reitz, wrote a novella on which they then based the script, and is duly noted as co scriptwriter in the credits. During the first two showings of the movie, they were both attending. And then the glowing reviews started to drop in, and suddenly Edgar Reitz, who was also coming to the Book Fair, decided that all future appearances were to be of him alone, and wrote an email to Heidenreich's publisher accusing the later of "trying to cash in to my success" by promoting the novella which was published simultanously with the film release. This was bewildering the nth degree to Mr. Heidenreich because he'd thought they were friends (plus, of course, it had been their shared project from the start); at a guess, it might be because Edgar Reitz wants critics to see Die andere Heimat as the crowning of his autobiographical oeuvre (his tv series "Heimat" years ago became a modern classic), and sharing credit is inconvenient to the lonely auteur theory. Still, it's a shame and conduct unbecoming.

Books I browsed through which I want to read at a later point: Jung Changs new biography of the Empress Dowager Cixi, in which she reclaims her from evil caricatureness; Pat Conroy's "The Death of Santini", in which he dispenses with the fictional guises and writes straight autobiography about his dysfunctional family & himself. I had met Pat Conroy many years ago, and he'd been funny, moving and very kind to a shy young woman, i.e. yours truly, which I never forgot. Of his novels, I have some I love ("The Prince of Tides") and some I like ("Lords of Discipline"), and only one which I thought was a mess ("Beach Music"). He does get repetitive if you read all the books, true, but the majority of them still left a profound impression on me, and a first look at this new book, which is far slimmer than the weighty and messy "Beach music", left me with the impression he was back to form. Mind you, it also left me thinking once again that most fannish hurt/comfort dark fics have nothing on the Conroy home life, but, like Svetlana Alexjevich, he tries to give written form to the traumatic horrors that happened and by that reaches people. Which is what so many of us try and not that many manage.

Mind you, it'll be a while until I can get to those books, probably not until Christmas. Meanwhile, there is tv to catch up, and the book fair cold to cure. Till later!
In the department of You Can't Make This Up: surely, in a few years, we'll discover British Labour leader Ed Miliband has cunningly bribed the Daily Mail to attack his departed father (fought against Hitler, refuge) for "hating Britain" (translation: being a Socialist) and to gate crash his uncle's funeral? They couldn't be naturally this dumb, surely, not even the Daily Fail? Anyway, you have to love the Guardian's summary: Previously known to many voters only as the man who knifed his brother, Ed Miliband has the Daily Mail to thank for his transformation into the man who loved his dad.

Meanwhile, of course, the US conservatives also do their level best to come across as caricatures without the brains of a five years old, but that's not new. It would be a tad easier to sympathize with the Democrats in government on more than the healthcare subject, though, if they didn't give the continuing impression of having adopted Richard Nixon as a role model. I don't suppose it got anywhere mentioned across the Atlantic, but this seek one of our writers, Ilja Trojanov, who was en route to a literature conference in Colorado, was denied entry to the US at the airport. (More about this in English here.) Considering he was among the most prominent public protesters against the NSA spying, the conclusion he drew, that this was a punishment by the land of the free for having voiced an opinion, does strike one as likely. Next week, the Frankfurt Book Fair starts; I wouldn't be surprised of the matter gets mentioned in at least one of the opening speeches.
selenak: (Baltar by Nyuszi)
( Aug. 20th, 2013 04:43 pm)
You know, I don't often identify with Lee Adama, aka Apollo from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, but right now I do. To be more specific, with his speech during Gaius Baltar's trial in the third seaon finale, and his "We are not a democracy anymore, we are a gang" conclusion. Because what else are we these days, "we" being the Western democracies, plural, not just one (or two)? The British police detaining David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald who was Edward Snowden's foremost media channel, for the nine hours it is currently possible to detain someone without having the charge them with a crime is just the most recent example.

Leaking information about war crimes is unpatriotic and treason. So is leaking information about the complete disregard of just about anyone's privacy (especially if they don't carry a US passport) world wide. But using plain old mafia tactics of intimidation and harrassment, oh, that's okay, because that's how you fight terrorism. Back in 1962, something happened in Germany that's known as "die Spiegel-Affäre", the Spiegel Scandal - you can read the details here you don't know them already. Back then, the fact that one of our major magazines published an article about the state of the German army, which led among other things to the then secretary of defense, Franz Josef Strauß, having the author of the article (who was on holidays in Spain) and the chief editor of the magazine arrested and accusing them of treason. Lack of patriotism. Leaking military secrets and helping the terrorists communists. Cue major public uproar (which is why the Spiegel Affair is seen as a big turning point, the first trial, so to speak, of whether Germans were still in the old authority-beholden mindset or had internalized democratic values) and effectively the end not just of Strauß' as a secretary of defense but of his political career outside of Bavaria.

I think of that, and the what's seen as acceptable behaviour by the state these days in the name of "fighting terrorism", and well, I do feel like Lee Adama. We're a gang now, or several gangs. Sure, it's still better to be in this gang than, say, in the Russian one, especially if you're gay, but you better not question the gang leaders tactics anyway, or keep it to complaining, as opposed to trying to document said tactics, because otherwise you're aiding the terrorists. And there are no polticial leaders, none, from wichever party in whichever country, who aren't complicit in this.

The terrorists won a long time ago.
I'm on the road currently, which means falling behind in my tv watching. However, you can read everywhere, so have some post American election analysis of the Republican party:

The GOP in fantasy land

Choice quote: "As GOP politicians and pundits pile on Romney in defeat, they often argue that he was done in by not being severely conservative enough; if only he’d let Ryan be Ryan, voters would have been won over by right-wing orthodoxy offering a clear-cut alternative to Obama’s alleged socialism. In truth, Romney was a perfect embodiment of the current GOP. As much as the Republican Party is a radical party, and a nearly all-white party, it has also become the Fantasyland Party. It’s an isolated and gated community impervious to any intrusions of reality from the “real America” it solipsistically claims to represent."

The GOP and me: story of a passionate Republican falling out of love.

Post election notes for the GOP: by John Scalzi, who has a way with words, as this quote shows:

"1. Recognize your brand is damaged. You can’t seriously be considered to be the party of fiscal probity at this point; your record for the last thirty years makes this laughable. Bush shot your international relations standing in the foot. All you have left is social issues, and — surprise! — on social issues, most people who are not you think you’re intolerant at best and racist, sexist, homophobic and bigoted at worst.
Seriously, guys: What does the GOP actually want to be the party of? At this point, and for the last few years, it’s been “The Party of Not Obama.” This is not a good way to run a railroad."

The Republicans post election day: sums it up thusly:

"Some Republicans have been warning one another for years about the stupidity of alienating a fast-growing and influential group of Americans. It’s not working. The Hispanic vote went overwhelmingly to Democrats in House and Senate races as well, by roughly the same 75-to-25 split. “We have to fix our Hispanic problem as quickly as possible,” said John Weaver, a Republican strategist.

He’s right. But the Republicans don’t have a Hispanic problem. They have an America problem, a country that is growing more diverse and, on a wide range of issues, shows a sensible moderation and social tolerance far out of step with radio ranting and Tea Party rigidity. It wasn’t just Hispanics who heartily rejected Republicans on Tuesday. It also was African-Americans, Asian-Americans, young people and, to perhaps the greatest effect, women."
selenak: (Dork)
( Nov. 7th, 2012 05:39 am)
I got up half an hour ago so could spend the same biting nails until a few minutes ago, when, OH THE RELIEF.

Not that Obama is perfect, but the current Republican Party is such a disaster in every area I care about, and the memories of the Bush years are so vividly horrible, that this non-American feels like dancing with her morning tea in hand right now. Speaking of Dubya, this is just too beautiful not to be true, linked via [personal profile] meret: Bush accidentally voted for Obama. Those nasty voting machines confused him. I'm sure a lot of Floridan voters empathize, George W.
First, via [personal profile] nenya_kanadka, a sad and beautiful post by Mira Furlan apropos Michael O'Hare's death about all the Babylon 5 cast members who have died by now. (In the middle of being moved, I had an eerie moment of recognition, because I know the German children's rhyme Mira F. remembers.) Really, universe, lay off the rest of our cast for a while, will you?

Secondly, since US politics affect the rest of the world so much, of course we're following the election campaigns over here with baited breath as well. And lo, there was much relief about Obama's performance in the second debate. I don't think even our conservatives want Romney. This would be because a German moderate conservative in most cases qualifies as a leaning-to-the middle liberal in the US, and vice versa. Also Romney's trip abroad in the summer was one giant facepalm after the other and brought back memories of the unmissed Dubya. However, we don't get to vote, so of course journalists fill their columns with speculations about the general American state of mind and what exactly Americans want from their Presidents.

I'm tempted to pull a Joss Whedon and declare there is a difference between what they want and what they need. Or even between what they think they want and what they actually want, and I mean that bi-partisanly. For example, I think if you'd ask members of either party about traits their ideal president should possess, I think here's what both Republicans and Democrats would agree on: he (for it's still a he in most people's imaginations) should be an uncorrupted outsider to Washington politics, solidly married to his first and only wife and so faithful to her that he sees even the occasional lustful thought about other women as a fault, naming faults in a crisis instead of indulging in euphemisms and lies, oh, and a good Christian because that's still a specifically American must. Now it occurs to me that within living memory, there actually was such a paragorn. This would be Jimmy Carter, aka the one Republicans still use to beat up Democrats with and Democrats for the most part are still busy distancing themselves from. (And not just them. I remember reading our chancellor of the 70s, Helmut Schmidt's, memoirs, in which he declares he had far more respect for Nixon than Carter; Schmidt is a Social Democrat.)

Again, looking at Presidents from both parties and broadly speaking, it seems to me the most popular were the ones who made people feel good about themselves. Unless their decisions were so catastrophic that even the hail-fellow-well-met-aren't-we-great! factor doesn't cover it anymore, hence Reagan still being a party saint whereas Bush the Younger seems to be the Republican Carter, aka the one his own party tries to pretend doesn't exist. And the eternal phoenix act of Bill Clinton. Mind you, there are other factors at work in all those cases, I know, but still, imo this is one. I mean, even Maureen Dowd, who used to disdain both Clintons (hence her being the likely original for the journalist in Political Animals and greeted No Drama Obama with "an adult, at last!", admitted to missing Clinton's unabashed "loves to be needed, needs to be loved" style even before the Democratic convention when she wrote in this article, comparing Clinton with Obama:

When the diffident debutante ended up in the deserted AmericInn’s lobby in Iowa Falls on an icy Saturday night with reporters and a few six-packs, he did not seize the opportunity to seduce, as Bill would have. Clinton probably would have chatted with one reporter about Gabriel García Márquez, another about economic philosophy and a third about prowling the Arkansas backwoods to find antique cameos for Hillary.

Barry, for his part, looked around with dazed distaste and scurried up to his room.

Post-convention, and several weeks later, the articles marvelling about how the 2008 situation, when Obama to the (non-Republican) media was the refreshing new hope and both Clintons the tired old has beens who should just go already, reversed itself so completely that "why can't you be more like Bill?" appears to be an ongoing subtext, have been coming a plenty. Some choice quotes from the latest one:

(In 2008) Seated on a stool next to Clinton, Obama wore an impassive expression, as if he were being endorsed by a Kissimmee town councilman—or a former president whose vaunted rhetorical gifts were inferior to his own. “He thought it was fine,” recalls a senior Obama adviser. “We were all watching on TV, and we thought it was fine, too. But by then, nobody cared that much. We were all just so far past the Clintons.”

Four years later, two words leap to mind:
As if. Today, Hillary Clinton is the most popular member of Obama’s Cabinet, and her husband is not only his greatest but most tireless political ally. This past September 11, the Y-chromosome Clinton was in Miami, ripping Mitt Romney a new one over Medicare. Since then, Clinton has campaigned for Obama in New Hampshire and Nevada, raised money for him in Boston and with him in Los Angeles—and there is more to come. A TV ad with Clinton making the case for Obama’s reelection has run 16,000 times in swing states across the country. Another, featuring a clip of Clinton’s address at the Democratic convention, almost gives the impression that he is Obama’s running mate. Then there is that speech itself, which another top Obama adviser tells me flatly is “the most important moment of the campaign so far.”


Last time around, recall, Obama’s candidacy was based in part on the consignment of Clintonism to the dustbin of history. But now, with Obama running unabashedly as the inheritor of that creed, Clinton is reveling in seeing his legacy restored to what he regards as its rightful status: a restoration that will mightily benefit his wife if she hurls herself at the White House again in 2016. Speculation on that topic is rife within the Clinton diaspora; no one has a clue as to whether or not Hillary will run. But, equally, no one doubts that her husband dearly wants her to—mainly because, among members of the tribe, he can’t shut up about it.

Clintonism isn’t the only thing being rejuvenated here, however. What’s taking place is the revivification—and the ­Godzilla-scale enlargement—of Clinton himself. In 2008, a not insignificant number of white liberals and African-Americans assailed him as, if not a racist, a race-baiter; he was battered and bruised, scalded and scarred, mired in self-pity. But in 2012, he has emerged as the Democrats’ own Dutch: revered by his party, respected so much by the GOP that it dare not cross him, sanctified by the great heaving middle.

Again, there are lots of factors for this reevaluation - Hillary's professionalism and loyalty to Obama as Secretary of State (defying all "she'll stab him in the back" predictions), nostalgia for the Niineties (budget surplus, and in the American perception no wars - Germany perceives it a bit differently, what with Bosnia being not that far away from our doorstep) - but it seems to me a lot of the complaints really go back to the feel good factor rather than actual difference of achievement. (As the above quoted article also states, there are a lot of parallels between the first two years of Clinton and Obama.) Obama's coolness was refreshing after eight years of Bush's all-emotion-no-brains and before that Clinton's emotions-and-brains-but-self-indulgence-again-and-again, but now until the second debate the constant refrain was "show more emotions! Show that you care!"

(Unless, of course, you're a woman. I still remembver all that business about Hillary crying, or not, in the Democratic primaries.) Politics and show business really are twins.
Apparantly the Republican strategy to counter the effect of Bill Clinton's rock star performance in support of Obama is to try and divide the Obama and Clinton camp again by suddenly discovering they like Bill Clinton and think he's been an awesome president. This is hilarious in general if, like me, you don't suffer from complete amnesia over the 90s and the violent hatred the Republicans spewed in the direction of both Clintons back then, and hilarious in particular coming from Newt Gingrich. Mind you, I'm entirely willing to believe Gingrich has mixed feelings. After all, he actually was important in the Clinton era. (As opposed to now, where he's being out-viled by the Tea Party folk by a mile.) Also, because you can't make such stuff, up, he actually told his wife (not sure whether it was the one he dumped in the hospital or the one after that), who told Newsweek in 1996, that the reason why he always took Dick Armey along when going to negotiate with Clinton was that "I melt when I'm around him".

Sadly for Newt, the chapter in Clinton's memoirs on Gingrich shows not many signs of his foe crush being reciprocated, but it is an entertaining and clever take not just on Gingrich but those forces in the Republican party which dominate today.

Which is why you find the relevant passages below the cut )
selenak: (Camelot Factor by Kathyh)
( Jun. 15th, 2012 01:19 pm)
Occasionally dipping into the internet these last days tells me that on the Game of Thrones season 1 dvds, some of the producers on the audiocommentary for the s1 finale chortle about the fact that one of the severed heads in a scene there is that George (W.) Bush. Which was no sooner pointed out in an article than HBO had to scramble and apologize and have the producers declare that no, the Bush head was totally a coincidence and not an intention and no disrespect etc.

Now I must admit, when I first read about the Bush head, I was amused. I freely admit that had it been the head of an US president I feel more or less positive about instead of loathing his policies and feeling pain every time he opens his mouth to speak - say, Clinton - I would not have been amused, though I doubt I'd have felt more than a momentary urge to roll my eyes, and then move on. Then again, I'm not American, and our politicians fare far worse on carnival wagons. Also, the apology is probably not intended to soothe Bush's potentially hurt feelings but very much intended to keep Republican voters paying for HBO in an election year where partisan feelings are at fever pitch. (Probably why no one demanded apologies from RTD and Phil for chortling on the Last of the Time Lords audio commentary or podcast - I forgot which one - about the fact the death of the US president was the one thing not reset when the Year That Wasn't was reversed and that probably nobody minded because, well, Bush. The BBC isn't paid for by American watchers.) Anyway: the mental combination of W. with Game of Thrones made me conclude that Bush is what would have happened if Theon Greyjoy by some chance of fate had become supreme ruler of Westeros.

Incidentally, re: Game of Thrones, the second season continued to be stress-free (due to lack of deeper emotional investment and only the vaguest of memories of the novels) watching for me, though I felt sorry for those of my friends who fretted about the changes to their favourite characters and glad for those who loved the show as it was. It's the Dallas of the "gritty" fantasy, and I don't mean that as a put-down; I used to watch Dallas in the 80s for quite a while and it was pretty addictive, but I also didn't love or hate any of the characters. And now I want someone to match Ewings and Barnes to Lannisters or Starks and write a treatise as to whether Dany is Lucy written with girl power and dragons. :)

Lastly: I hear G.R.R. Martin joined the ranks of (mostly male) reviewers who watched a differentn movie than I did and thought Black Widow was only standing around uselessly being eye candy in The Avengers. No, Mr. Martin, that's Jon Snow in the tv version of your saga. He may be actually doing something in the books, but I would not know, because I got bored so much by him by the time the first book ended that I skipped all his pov chapters in the subsequent ones.
Finished my [community profile] queer_fest Babylon 5 story last night; it's off to be beta'd, but the posting date isn't until June 1st, so there's no hurry. Going back to the B5verse once in a while, and in this case specifically to the Centauri, with Vir at the center of it, feels like getting back into very comfortable worn slippers. Though due to the prompt I was actually able to do something with the Centauri that I hadn't done before, so - old slippers with new soles? (And now I'm nearly at Londo's dancing metaphor from s1, Great Maker, as he would say.) Anyway, the other reason why writing it, delving back into the B5 verse felt so great is that it was and as far as I know still is blessedly free of shipper wars. Of course, no sooner have I written this that I expect someone to tell me that I'm wrong about this and that I totally missed the epic battles between Susan/Talia and Susan/Marcus shippers, or the mighty war between John/Delenn and Delenn/Lennier shippers, due to not hanging out in the Ivanova or Minbari centric corners of fandom enough in my Centauri and Narn centric fannish life, but - I really don't think that's how B5 fandom spent its time, back in the day, or spends its time now.

(Every time I feel like growling "a pox on romance and our cultural obsession with it that poisons storylines and fannish discourse", though, I remind myself that I'm not immune, that there are romances both textual and subtextual I was/am rooting for and enjoy(ed), and that some of these are probably just as annoying or incomprehensible in their attraction to other people.)

(I will say that I remain eternally grateful Londo was not played by a hot young actor but the divine and decidedly middle aged, plumb and not at all pretty Peter Jurasik. It meant the "omg why so mean to the hottie!?!? Death score what death score?!? Must pair him with *insert character also played by young and attractive actor*!!" crowd stayed away from what is still my favourite fall and redemption storyline on tv.)


With two movies about to be released and a third finished with an uncertain release date, Joss Whedon seems to get interviewed basically everywhere you turn. Now love him, hate him or remain utterly indifferent, but one advantage the man has is being eminently quotable (not many writers who can write witty dialogue are also able to make it up on the spot, so I'm suitably impressed). My favourite quote from the current crop of interviews is probably:

Q: You've been said to encourage fanfiction. How do you feel about scholarship about your work and the fact that academics tend to delve quite deeply into it, perhaps to the point of publishing interpretations you did not intend?

A: All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn't your pet -- it's your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.

He's always been consistent about this, which makes the "Let's take *character X*/*show universe Y* from the evil/incompetent Whedon" or "Joss needs to learn fannish interpretation is so superior" posts feel a bit like teenagers casting themselves as daring and rebellious when their parents, far from forbidding them to go out, are in fact encouraging them to stay up until dawn and make their own experiences. It's not something inherent or original to Whedonverse fandoms, of course, but something I've observed everywhere, though not every creator or people-in-charge-of-fannish-source-copyrights are as laid back about fannish discourse. And nothing feeds the fannish sense of outraged moral superiority so much as a creator/author/person-in-charge-of-copyright who gets possessive/protective of their characters (and extremer cases is silly enough to get into arguments with reviewers on message boards, looking at you, Aaron Sorkin). They are the man, we are the true, far better artists and interpreters of *insert character/fannish source*, and, that golden stalwart of posts, "should just shut up".


Speaking of interactions between fannish interpretations and their source, in the last few days a tumblr containing hilarious fictional Hillary Clinton texts has been linked all over the internet. With the results that Hillary Clinton saw it as well, made a submission of her own and invited the two fan creators to meet her. Which they did. It occurs to me that if the online media are anything to go buy (always a qualified if), Hillary in the years of the Obama presidency has ended up as the most popular (living) Democrat politician. Which I don't think would have happened had she won the primaries and become President (not least because a sitting President even in a best case scenario is bound to disappoint some expectations of their electorate), but there it is. Not a bad note to go out on, if she really retires after her current term.
selenak: (Rocking the vote by Noodlebidsnest)
( Mar. 3rd, 2012 07:56 pm)
Whenever I'm reading something about one of the Republican candidates, I feel trapped in the most horrible type of reality show. Or in some prequel for The Handmaid's Tale, thinking, oh, come on, Margaret Atwood, these characters aren't reall, far too over the top. It would be funny if it wasn't frightening if one considers they even made it that far and what that says about the people supporting them. War on women indeed.

I was utterly unsurprised to read Santorum has it in for the 60s. That was old already when Gingrich had it in for the 60s back in the Clinton years, and you'd think given the baby boomers are now all in retirement age, having it in for the 60s doesn't even pay anymore, but apparently not: it must be some sort of American Conservative coming of age: denouncing the 60s as the decade of evil. And sex. Never forget the sex. Mind you, when reading Santorum thunder about Woodstock (seriously?) and the Democrats being "the party of homosexuals" (does he get paid by the Democrats to do that?), I remembered that last week or the week before someone pointed out Germany (currently also ruled by conservatives) is governed by: a) A childless woman in her second marriage who never ever did the playing-the-housewife thing during her election campaigns, b) an open homosexual living in a registered life partnership with his male husband as her second in command, and c) after our latest presidential switcheroo, by a reverend who has been living unmarried with his (female) partner since the last twelve years and, which means we currently have a First Companion (girlfriend seems to sell the relationship short - the German word, Lebensgefährtin, is far better, because it means a long term, life long partnership without marriage). I mean, I didn't vote for any of them, but still, these are our conservatives. Allow me a moment of relief about living in Old Europe.

On a related, but fannish note: you can leave prompts at the at the multifandom queer fest ficathon.


Breaking Bad fanfiction rec:

Blue (she's like a dog that solves puzzles): set mid season 2, after Four Days. In which Walt gets a surprise present and Jesse fundamentally misunderstands the nature of a children's show, and, incidentally, probably the nature of Walt, as well.
Politics: Egytian women protesting in Cairo. Make sure to watch the video that comes with the article as well, because we hear various women speak on the situation, which I think has been missing in a lot of reporting. Also, it's a somewhat depressing comment on short attention spans that everyone was following the spring uprising but what's going on now hardly warrents a remark on lj, and I'm not excluding myself here.

Yesterday I reflected that it's incredible it was ten years already that The Fellowship of the Ring was released in cinemas world wide. While despite (or because of?) its popularity Jackson's film versions of Tolkien's saga always had their detractors as well, and you can argue about individual choices he made, what to emphasize and what to cut etc., there's no denying that it was an epic fannish event. Now we get the first trailer of The Hobbit, here, and I am absolutely thrilled. My favourite moment is the use of the dwarves' song in Bilbo's home, because that captures so well the description of how in the book hearing them sing awakened something in Bilbo that made him go from being overwhelmed and irritated by his uninvited guests to, well, see and hear for yourself. BAGGINS!

And now for the tv meme most recently spotted at [personal profile] local_max's!

Which TV shows did you start watching in 2011?

Sanctuary. As in, I marathoned the first three seasons when they became available on dvd. Do not spoil me for s4 in the comments. I also started Camelot but stopped early on because it was not for me. Game of Thrones, which was okay, aka the flaws of same were already in the source and ditto for the qualities, though it should get some kind of dubious award for its use of sexposition (most awkward example: Littlefinger explaining his motivation while two whores "train"). The Borgias which I loved, loved, loved.

Which TV shows did you let go of in 2011?

Dexter. Alas.

Which TV shows did you mean to get into but didn't in 2011? Why?

Lost Girls (recced to me but there's lack of time), Homeland (actually, I was never planning to get into it before Christmas for lack of time, but after, I will. [profile] abigail_n has really made me curious).

Which TV shows do you intend on checking out in 2012?

Homeland for sure. Possibly one of the two fairy tale shows. Not the one which I gather via fannish osmosis is inadvertendly hilarious for using really bad German when named after our two linguistic professors of the 19th century who other than for fairy tales are famous for their dictionary of the German language. (Jakob Grimm had quite the acerbic temper, I'll have you know. He was the Holmes to his brother's Watson, but as opposed to Wilhelm didn't have much of a sense of humour. I'm not sure he would have been amused. He also was an Übergeek; this is the guy who travelled to Paris just so he could read the Manessehandschrift, aka medieval German songs at the French National Library, and didn't do anything else there.)

Which TV show impressed you least in 2011?

Alas. Dexter.

Which TV show do you think you might let go of in 2012 unless things significantly improve?

Thankfully, my other shows while not perfect are doing pretty well.

Which TV show impressed you the most in 2011? Why?

Being Human, season 3. Most dramatic unjumping the shark and growing the beard since Angel season 4 lured me back from almost giving up after s3. Everything that had made me so angry and dissappointed about s2 was dealt with. The season had a clear narrative arc. And compared with some tv that came later - looks as DW season 6 - the way it uncompromisingly delivered on what was set up is even more impressive. Coming close behind: The Borgias, for being atmospheric, creating a great, rich ensemble of characters who were all interesting, and for its gorgeous cinematography.

Which TV shows do you think you'll never let go of no matter how crappy they get? Why?

See, I don't do that. If it gets to the point where I get more misery than enjoyment out of a fannish source, I let go. It's just not worth it, staying around, feeling miserable, spreading misery, not for me and not for the people still enjoying the fannish source, and I never got the point of hate communities, either.

Shows I watched and loved that aren't mentioned on this list because I started them in another year

The Good Wife: not perfect, but overall still so good I enjoy returning week after week. Merlin which is the type of show that while I objectively see the flaws of just taps into my emotions in a way that makes me love it, so seeing it step up its game and deliver some genuine game changers (and not as cliffhangers but early and mid season) is all the more pleasurable. (Also the acting and the cinematography this year were so very, very good it's irritating beyond belief it'll never be seen award material in said categories.) Fringe which so far has made up for what I found problematic in s3 and is very, very enjoyable to watch; Doctor Who which for all its flaws and the fact I have an emotional disconnect currently does deliver the occasional pearl beyond price (aka The Doctor's Wife and The God Complex) and besides is the kind of show which has cycles where you can't love every season or era in the same way, and that's no problem, because the very premise is constant reinvention. And of course I throw in the occasional rewatch of my old loves, B5, DS9, etc. I've been meaning to get on a BTVS and AtS rewatch as well.
selenak: (Nicholas Fury - Kathyh)
( Jul. 20th, 2011 04:10 pm)
Things you learn while doing research:

The third contingent in the partnership - of the CIA’s European Theatre Operations, that is, in 1949 - was a former Wehrmacht intelligence unit, which, under the command of General Reinhard Gehlen, had been perserved intact by the American Army at the end of the war. Deployed by the OPC to spy on and conduct operations against the Soviet Union, the Gehlen organisation recruited the crews for the Anglo-American boat operations, drawing from one time German motor torpedo flotilla personnel who had served in the Baltic during the war.

Okay. Let me get this straight. I mean, of course I knew both the US and the USSR after the war nicked what German scientists they could get for themselves after the war, but an entire Wehrmacht intelligence unit? Guess what they might have been doing during the war? Especiallyin Eastern Europe?

What the OPC did was balance the degree to which the individuals they sought to recruit were tainted against the advantages their recruitment would bring in countering a Soviet Union which Wisner regarded as being as malevolent as the Nazis had been. The application of this axiom meant that few ex-Nazis had chequered enough pasts to be precluded from working for the OPC. Indeed, the 1949 Central Intelligence Act permitted émigrés who were of use to the OPC, but who might not meet with American immigration requirements, to enter the United States. (...) The case of Gustav Hilger is instructive of the choices faced by the OPC. A one time career diplomat, Hilger specialised in the recruitment of collaborators to fight alongside the Germans at the eastern front during the war. He had also been Foreign Office liaison to the SS and in this capacity had been party to the imprisonment and murder of Gypsies and Jews in Eastern Europe and Italy. For the OPC, however, the pluses outweighed the minuses and Hilger was employed to help organise underground émigré forces to be deployed in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine.

In other words, what Nuremberg Trials? Those are just for people not useful against the Communists. If, on the other hand, you’re a democratically elected leader and endangering oil access, why then action is called for:

Eisenhower took a more aggressive approach in his application of covert action in the third world. (...) The first venture of this nature to be authorised under his tenure was Operation TPAJAX, the CIA-engineered cop that resulted in the removal of the Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Musaddiq, from power in August 1953. The Iran coup signalled a significant departure and set an important precedent (...) CIA preventive covert action had been sanctioned to depose governing regimes before, but Musaddiq was the first democratically-elected leader to be removed through such methods. (..) The replacement of Musaddiq by a less nationalistic, more western-friendly Iranian leader who, at least in American perceptions, was less vulnerable to a communist takeover, was seen by Eisenhower as essential if the United States was to: 1) safeguard supplies of Persian oil to the West, 2) secure Iran as a country of vital strategic importance for containing communism, and 3) advance American plans to transform Iran into a modern westernised state. Initiating a coup d’état was far from the most enlightened way to serve these objectives, in that replacing Mussadiq with a dictator, however temporary the arrangement was originally planned to be, was hardly the best way to foster democracy. Moreover, Eisenhower took little account of the negative long-term effects on American-Iranian relations that the coup would have.

No kidding. I haven’t yet met an Iranian exile who isn’t profoundly bitter, still, about this, pointing out that Iran was a secular democracy before the Americans made it into a Shah-ruled dictatorship which in turn brought Khomeini and a theocracy under which they’re still suffering. At any rate, it’s really hard to take the whole party line about America’s commitment to democracy seriously if you read up on espionage history.

(All quotes from James Callanan: Covert Action in the Cold War. US Policy, Intelligence and CIA operations.)
selenak: (Frobisher by Letmypidgeonsgo)
( May. 3rd, 2011 03:22 pm)
...during the last ten or so days:

1.) The "birther" hysteria culminates in Obama producing his birth certificate (longer version, as apparantly the White House already released a shorter version eons ago). My possibly unfair thought on this was "only in America". More seriously, I also thought about our last president (note: German presidents are only heads of state, not heads of goverment, i.e. they're only there for representation, not for actual governing, that's what the chancellor does), who flounced off (it can't be expressed differently) because he thought the media was too mean to him. I kid you not, and thus forced Ms. Merkel to come up with an emergency replacement. And he never, ever, would have been asked to present his birth certificate.

2.) Then I gathered through fannish osmosis and newspaper articles that there is now a new Superman story in which he - not Clark Kent, Superman in his Superman persona - renounces his American citizenship, because people around the globe keep blaming the US goverment for his actions and see him as a tool of same. Well, if you drape yourself in the flag colours, they would, Supes. (Also, ask Dr. Osterman and Mark Milton about this.) Anyway, so Kal-El, immigrant from Krypton, is no longer an American. Apparantly this was the second most talked about thing after Obama's birth certificate and caused much indignation. Again: only in America. I don't mean that in a negative way. As a comic book reader (though more Marvel than DC), I find it endearing they care that much.

Footnote: now the Doctor, despite also being an alien with an exploded home planet, does not have British citizenship to begin with despite mostly hanging out on the island. And our own most successful sci fi hero in Germany was originally American to begin with (in the 60s, when the pulp fiction series Perry Rhodan started), not German, and immediately renounced American citizenship once the plot kicked in with a vengeance and he discovered an alien ship with high tech that no single nation on Earth should have. Basically: aliens and nationaless cosmopolitism are a very European thing.

3.) And then a high profile terrorist died after, I'm told, more than 500 billions of dollars were spent on a decades long manhunt. To no one's surprise, he hadn't gone very far, just to the neigbouring country from where he was last seen before ordering the death of about 3000 people in the World Trade Centre. The way this event was presented in the media felt a bit as if Obama was an action hero played by Samuel Jackson, at last firing the decisive shot that kills the film's villain. And then there is a happy ending. It occured to me that if Osama bin Laden had been captured alive, it would have been incredibly inconvenient and messy for all parties concerned. Would he have ended up in Guantanamo? Would he have gotten a trial? If so, would he have used all the money from his very rich (and quite familiar with American business) family to hire a team of lawyers, or would it have been a military tribunal? What would the defense have brought up? It was all Mohammad Atta's idea, and our client can't be judged by any unbiased jury because there can't be any? The US was fine with our client as long as he was busy agitating against the Russians in Afghanistan? Or maybe he'd have insisted on defending himself and would have behaved as contemptously of the court as Slovodan Milosevic did when they tried him in Den Haag.

There is a reason why so many films prefer to kill off their villains. (Unless they're already planning the sequel.)

But. I can't help but remember. Fiction, again, one of Terry Prattchet's Discworld novels, one of the darker ones, Night Watch. At the end, our hero, copper-turned-watch commander Sam Vimes finally has caught up with the story's main villain. Who is a repellent individual, responsible for many deaths. Both directly and by influencing other people, showing them new ways to torture, more ways to kill. And as a last act, once he figures out he's well and truly caught, he tries to provoke Vimes into killing him. It would fit his own narrative: that they're really not that different, that it just matters who has the upper hand, is the better killer. But Sam Vimes does not. He's making an arrest instead, grimly sure that this man will face what he did - in a trial.

Well, you know. That's fiction. Out of this world.
Not a surprise but news all the same: the "eye witness" quoted by Colin Powell in the 2003 presentation of the US' case against Iraq at the UN - you know, as in - "We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels. The source was an eyewitness — an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities. He was present during biological agent production runs. He was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998. Twelve technicians died." -, codenamed Curveball and actually named Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi admits he made it all up. (Detailed reporting here.) His current day justification is that he wanted Saddam gone and if lies achieved this, then so be it. Reading through the article and listening through the interviews, I thought, hang on, what Sci Fi plot does this remind me, until it finally dawned to me: "...and the self respect of one Starfleet officer", of course! In the Pale Moonlight, arguably one of the best if not the best DS9 episode. It also brought home one of the different ways we perceive fiction and reality. In the Pale Moonlight is DS9 at its most shades of grey, true, but both the episode and its place in the general Dominion War arc is constructed in a way that the audience basically is bound to think Sisko makes the right choice. We would think less of him, the episode and the show if he had decided to put principles first in this particular scenario.

Otoh, it's not exaggarated to say that a lot of people despise Bush, Blair & Co. for what they did. "Curveball" might be a different case because he's actually Iraqi - as opposed to B&B - and that makes the deceit feel differently (at least it does to me, personal opinion as always); also I was interested to learn the involvement of the BND (= German secret service) in the whole affair given our own policy later re: the Iraq War. But it's still true that the fictional case, so famously shades of grey, suddenly looks a whole lot easier and black and whiter when compared with the real life scenario and the ongoing consequences (and deaths) it caused.

...You know, being unable to make up my mind on the real thing, I wish that planned season 7 story about Jake having a Watergate experience while uncovering Dad's involvement in the Pale Moonlight affair would not have been scrapped in order not to upset the warm father-son relationship between the Siskos.


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