Grass Roots Views of the World, Politics and News

by Robert L. Baber, Bob@RLBaber.eu
2013 August 2

This web page contains a few views of the world, current politics and noteworthy events in the news as seen from the grass roots levels of society — more precisely, as seen by me. This material may be updated from time to time.

If you have any comments or questions regarding the material below, please feel free to contact me by email at Bob@RLBaber.eu.

An RSS feed file for this web page exists at http://baber.servehttp.com/GrassRootsWorldViews/GrassRootsRSS.xml.

For my contact addresses see http://www.rlbaber.eu

Table of contents (most recent article first)

14. Whistleblowers: Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, illegal and immoral acts of governments
13. Thank you, Cyprus: a David conquers some would-be Goliaths
12. The arrest of the leader of Wikileaks: Another setback on the long path to democracy
11. It's time to disband NATO
10. Brief von US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
9. Women and IT
8. Maintaining and improving one's own country vs. destroying others' countries
7. "Don't confuse me with facts, my head is made up"
6. Iran vs. the others: Preventing "have not" nations from acquiring new technologies
5. War brings out the bad on all sides.
4. Do the U.S. and Europe share the same values?
3. Politicians' 3 Ps, turkeys gobbling and “do as I say, not as I do”
2. The Airbus A380
1. Grass-roots Germans' view of the U.S.-European dialogue


14. Whistleblowers: Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, illegal and immoral acts of governments

The recent disclosures of questionable activities of governments by Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have given rise to much discussion in the news media, within and between governments and among normal citizens (the public) about these "whistleblowers". These discussions center around the question whether they should be hailed as heroes or incarcerated as traitors and criminals.

It seems to me that these discussions miss completely what should be the main issue: Should it be against the law to disclose illegal or immoral acts perpetrated by a government or by government officials or representatives? What mechanisms should be put in place to enable such disclosures? To whom should such disclosures be made?

Many governments have some mechanisms in place for such matters, e.g. parliamentary oversight committees and investigatory offices. The news media also sometimes play these roles, but they are usually severely limited by local law. Experience clearly shows that these mechanisms do not work adequately. They completely fail to uncover reliably and completely the worst offenses, the very offenses that should be uncovered and prevented.

It appears quite clear that Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have violated laws of their country, whose government has itself violated its own laws and established norms of humanity. They have admitted committing some of the acts for which they have been charged. That is not the important question. The important question is instead, should laws exist that prevent disclosing the misdeeds of a government and members of a government?

Secondary issues are the all too common double standard and the tendency of the government of the United States of America to appear to believe that its laws apply throughout the entire world, or at least should do so, and the perception by others that the USA expects other countries to do what it wants them to do.

"Anyone who sacrifices freedom for security does not deserve either, and in the long term will have neither." I do not remember who originated this statement or the statement from which it is paraphrased. Its validity should be obvious to everyone, especially to the citizens of that country whose original reason for existence was purported to be freedom.

Robert L. Baber, 2013 August 2


13. Thank you, Cyprus: a David conquers some would-be Goliaths

Lately, especially in connection with the problems of excessive debts of some Eurozone countries and banks, I have become very concerned about the attitudes and policies of many of our politicians. They seem to me to have their priorities backwards: Instead of putting the people first and other considerations later, they clearly favor BIG MONEY over little people — in my view a very anti-democratic policy, a policy starkly inconsistent with their obligations to guide societies of people. After all, monetary systems were created to serve people; people were not created to serve monetary systems.

Finally, this problem came to a head when certain European political leaders, including the Chancellor and the Finance Minister of Germany, proposed that depositors of Cypriot banks should be called upon to finance a large part of the "bailout". By my long term understanding, this would clearly reverse the normal order of bearing a loss when a bank becomes insolvent. Normally, the depositors and owners of savings accounts would be paid off first, then bondholders, and finally the owners of the banks in question. I was relieved and very happy that the Cypriot Parliament rejected this ridiculous proposal with an overwhelming NO: 36 against, 16 abstentions, and none in favor.

Shortly after receiving the news of the rejection by the Cypriot Parliament, I sent the following email to the six MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) from Cyprus with a copy to the President of the European Parliament.

======
Subject: Thank you, Cyprus
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2013 20:58:45 +0100

Dear MEPs from Cyprus,

As a German citizen I would like to thank the parliament of Cyprus for having the good sense to reject the senseless suggestions of so many of our "distinguished political leaders", who seem to me to have much too little, even no understanding of economics. Equally disturbing to me was their lack of concern for the legitimate interests of the common people.

It seemed to me from the very beginning that the proposal to levy a bank deposit tax was unfair and inappropritate. It would have set a very dangerous precedent for all EU nations, not just Cyprus. In my view, such a move should be illegal. If it is not already illegal under EU law, I suggest that the EU parliament pass such a law to protect citizens of EU countries from their own national political leaders.

I am also glad to see you put some of our own German political leaders in their place. I have been quite disturbed by their proposals in connection with Greece and now, Cyprus.

Thanks again to the parliament of Cyprus for stopping what could have become a very counterproductive and dangerous precedent. A David has conquered some would-be Goliaths.

I hope that Cyprus will find a good, economically appropriate solution to the current difficulties.

best regards, Bob
======
Dr.-Ing. Robert L. Baber, FBCS, CEng, Eur.Ing., VDI
for telephone numbers, addresses, etc. see http://www.RLBaber.de and
http://Office.RLBaber.de
for information on my latest book see http://Language-of-Mathematics.eu

Engineering is fun, challenging, interesting and important.
======

Robert L. Baber, 2013 March 20


12. The arrest of the leader of Wikileaks: Another setback on the long path to democracy

I should begin by giving my definition of a democracy and contrasting it with the more common definition in today’s world.

In a true democracy, the interests of the individual people are paramount. Members of the government consciously and subconsciously recognize that their role is to serve the individual people by coordinating various activities in the society to serve the interests of the individual people. In short, the members of government are there to serve the people, not the other way around.

Today, however, governments considered to be democracies are still characterized by the fact that they rule the people and the people are there to serve the government. Certain citizens’ rights are “guaranteed” by certain laws, but the politicians in the governments still act as if it is their duty to govern, to rule, and as if it is the duty of the individuals to do as the government tells them, i.e. to serve the government. The rulers are elected by the people, but once elected, they rule rather than serve the people who elected them. The selection of the candidates to run in the elections is often strongly influenced by politicians already in governmental positions, effectively reducing the individual people’s role in choosing the political leaders.

The view that the government’s duty is to serve the “common good” does not invalidate these comments, because the members of the government, not the individual people, determine what that “common good” is or should be.

In the millenia long history of human communities and societies large enough to require a multi-level governmental structure, most have been governed by leaders exercising strong, authoritative control over the masses, with the desires and interests of the common individuals playing at best a secondary role, sometimes no role at all. At various times during this history, and especially in the last few hundred years, steps have been taken by groups of people to change to a more democratic governmental structure. In all cases to date, the changes actually achieved, while substantial, have not reversed the ruler-ruled roles.

The recent emergence of Wikileaks on the internet is a very significant step in the direction leading ultimately to truly democratic government. Its main contribution is to make the common people aware of what their governments are really doing behind the scenes. This is a step toward making politicians in governments consciously aware that they are – or at least will soon be – accountable to the people for all their actions, not only for those actions they choose to publicize.

The more recent arrest of the person leading Wikileaks is a major setback on the path to true democracy – which began only comparatively recently. Such setbacks were, are, and will continue to be understandable, to be expected and to arise. Those people in governments will, of course, do all they can to maintain the status quo, which serves their personal and collective advantage. Currently, they have the upper hand and can be expected to use it fully. Members of different governments can be expected to cooperate with each other in resisting the desires of the masses for a truly democratic governmental structure for the societies in which they live.

History will undoubtedly repeat itself. The current governments will win most of the individual battles along the way, but in the long run, the desires of the masses will prevail. The only question is how long this process will take. Again, if history repeats itself, no one alive today will live to experience the full democracy as I defined it above.

By placing obstacles in the way of those leading the way to truly democratic government, today’s politicians will, ultimately, make martyrs and future heroes of the revolutionaries – the very people they are trying to supress and stop.

Robert L. Baber, 2010 December 7


11. It's time to disband NATO

NATO was formed as a defense pact to counter the threat to Europe during the Cold War. Its goal has been achieved and it is, therefore, no longer needed. Therefore, NATO should be disbanded. Celebrate its success ceremoniously if desired, but disband it.

Many of the countries NATO was intended to protect Europe against are now members of the European Union and of NATO. This also reduces considerably the reason for NATO's existence.

NATO is being transformed step by step into a military pact for offensive operations. Also for that reason, it should be disbanded.

Robert L. Baber, 2008 April 7


10. Brief von US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Heute (2008 February 1) wurde in der deutschen Presse bekannt gegeben, daß der US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates einen ungewöhnlich scharf formulierten Brief an den deutschen Verteidigungsminister Jung geschickt hat, in dem zusätzliche deutsche Truppen für Kampfeinsätze in Afghanistan gefordert werden. Daraufhin habe ich die untenstehende Email an verschiedene höhere deutsche Politiker und die Presse geschickt.

From: "Robert L. Baber" <Bob@RLBaber.de>
To: <internetpost@bundeskanzlerin.de>,
    <fdp-point@fdp.de>,
    <poststelle@auswaertiges-amt.de>,
    <Poststelle@bmvg.bund400.de>
Cc: <info@1und1.de>,
    <politbarometer@zdf.de>
Subject: Brief von US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2008 11:06:16 +0100

Liebe führende Politiker der BRD,

Hoffentlich werden Sie jetzt endlich aufwachen und bewußt wahrnehmen, daß

- die USA seit langem mit Deutschland und anderen Ländern Salami-Taktik
bezüglich Kriegseinsätze spielen und

- Ihre Vorgesetzten die Wähler Deutschlands, nicht die höheren
Regierungsmitglieder der USA sind.

Wenn Sie die Meinungen der Bürger und Wähler zu diesem Thema wirklich
erfahren wollen, lesen Sie z.B. deren Meinungen bei
http://meinungen.1und1.de/forum-1und1/post/246326?sp=0.

Seit mehr als einem Jahrhundert hat Deutschland mehrmals nur negative -- 
sehr, sehr negative -- Erfahrungen mit Krieg gesammelt. Haben wir nichts
daraus gelernt?

mit friedlichen Grüßen, Bob
======
Dr.-Ing. Robert L. Baber, FBCS, CEng, Eur.Ing.
für Telefonnummern, Adressen usw. s. http://www.rlbaber.de
für Information über mein nächstes Buch, s. http://SpracheDerMathematik.de
======

Robert L. Baber, 2008 February 1


9. Women and IT

The trade press repeatedly asks why so few women choose to study and go into IT (Information Technology) and reports many activities attempting to attract more women to the field.

Could it be that they are seeking more capable, better qualified, more professional and more cultured colleagues to work with than they find in the software field?

Robert L. Baber, 2007 August 23


8. Maintaining and improving one's own country vs. destroying others' countries

Background: the recent collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis, the Iraq war

The cost of restoring the bridges in the U.S. to a proper state over the next few years has been estimated to be of the same order of magnitude as the cost of the Iraq war.

I.e., instead of spending that money
the U.S. could have financed the proper maintenance of its own civilian physical infrastructure. It would certainly have been in the interests of the general population of the U.S. to have done so. It would also have been in the interests of the many grass rootsers in Iraq.

The only possible winners have been some U.S. oil interests, including those belonging to families of some current U.S. government officials.

The key to understanding the policies of the current U.S. government toward Iraq in particular and the Middle East in general is, in my view, to understand the philosophy behind the Order of Skull and Bones: keep things stirred up and in turmoil. Only then can I explain many actions of the U.S. government (especially the current one) to myself. For further information on the secret Order of Skull and Bones, search Google for: skull bones yale.

Robert L. Baber, 2007 August 16


7. "Don't confuse me with facts, my head is made up"

When I was a child growing up in the U.S., the lovable but dumb character Riley in the radio program "The Life of Riley" often responded to suggestions he didn't want to follow with, "Don't confuse me with facts, my head is made up."

The current stance of the western countries on the issue of Iran's uranium enrichment activities reminds me of Riley's statement. Iran has consistently made it very, very clear to all that it regards enriching uranium as its inalienable right and that it will not, under any circumstances, consider relinquishing that perceived right. The western countries, by restricting their attention to this issue, have effectively precluded making any progress on the much more important issue: nuclear weapons. The fact that Iran has repeatedly stated that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons should, this grass rootser would think, be an unmistakeable signal to the rest of the world that this is a negotiable issue, and perhaps even an easily negotiable issue.

By concentrating on Iran and the enrichment of uranium, the western countries have distracted themselves from a much more imminent threat: North Korea, which has just proved to the world that it has nuclear weapons by detonating one in a test this morning.

The western countries have maintained for some time that Iran is lying regarding nuclear weapons. They claim that Iran really does intend to develop nuclear weapons. This grass rootser resents that no evidence has appeared in the world press to support this claim. At least in the case of the Iraq war, some western countries stated that they had intelligence information to justify starting the war. That intelligence information turned out to be false. Now, in the case of Iran's purported plans to develop nuclear weapons, the western countries are not even offering us that much "evidence". It is an insult to our intelligence that they expect us to believe them. Perhaps they are right, but they might also be wrong again.

Why don't the western countries simply drop the issue of Iran's uranium enrichment activities and turn instead to the much more important issue of nuclear weapons development, an issue not contested by Iran? On that issue the western countries could count on strong support from almost everyone in the world. Their bargaining position would be very strong, much stronger than it is now.

Several decades ago it was, it seems to me, clear that sooner or later the world would have to come to grips with a situation in which many countries, large and small, would have a nuclear capability, including the capability to make nuclear weapons. The mechanisms put into effect to cope with such a situation were obviously appropriate only for the short term, in which only a small number of mostly large countries had nuclear capability. North Korea's nuclear test this morning shows clearly that the time has come to replace these current mechanisms with much different ones suitable for the long term.

Iran has (probably knowingly and intentionally) painted itself into a corner on the issue of uranium enrichment, but not on the issue of nuclear weapons. The western countries have (unwisely and perhaps unintentionally) painted themselves into a corner on the issue of uranium enrichment, even though the issue of nuclear weapons is, to the common people, much more important. By giving in a little face on the issue of uranium enrichment, the western countries could gain considerably more face on the issue of nuclear weapons. This is the only feasible win-win situation I see now.

The common people of the world want and need a world free of nuclear weapons. Many also want a world free of war, and a world free of nuclear weapons would be an important and welcome first step.

Politicians have long been known to disregard the wishes and needs of the common people. I hope that they will not do so again this time, but I fear that they will.

Robert L. Baber, 2006 October 9


6. Iran vs. the others: Preventing "have not" nations from acquiring new technologies

History gives extensive evidence that every new technology is, sooner or later, acquired by any and all nations that want to acquire it. General knowledge pertaining to new technology can be kept secret for only a very limited time. A few countries developed the capability to generate electricity, and most followed sooner or later. The same thing happened with explosives, motor driven vehicles, radio, television, computers, etc. etc. It is clear that, similarly, the nations with the capability to enrich uranium will, in the mid to long term, find it impossible to prevent Iran or any other nation from acquiring that capability if they wish to do so.

The current conflict between Iran and other nations is characterized by two monologues and no dialog. Two separate and quite different issues are, unfortunately, mixed, perhaps intentionally to confuse the public. One issue is whether or not Iran should be permitted to enrich uranium. The second issue is whether or not Iran should use nuclear technology to manufacture weapons.

This grass rootser is convinced that sooner or later, Iran will acquire the capability to enrich uranium if it wants to do so, and it apparently does want to do so.

Regarding the second issue, Iran has stated repeatedly that it has no desire to manufacture nuclear weapons. The other countries do not believe these statements. Here is the crux of the conflict and the key to resolving the issue, but neither side has been reported in the public news to have made any overtures to the other regarding this; each only repeats its views and its demands on the other.

The most obvious and feasible solution would be for the other countries to recognize openly that they cannot and will not try to prevent Iran from enriching uranium and for Iran to give credence to its intention not to manufacture nuclear weapons by agreeing to completely open inspection. This would give each side what it purports to want and would satisfy its stated interests. The fact that neither side has moved at all in this direction strongly suggests to me that neither side really wants to resolve this issue. Each is trying to bully the other. This situation can remain stable, although tense, as long as the other countries have no convincing evidence that Iran is manufacturing nuclear weapons. But we remember the "intelligence" that led to the Iraq war all too well.

Robert L. Baber, 2006 May 31


5. War brings out the bad on all sides.

The Haditha incident of November 2005 in Iraq, only now coming into the public news, is just one more example that war brings out the bad on all sides. Such atrocities have been committed by most (probably by all) sides in every large or long lasting war in the history of human warfare over past millenia. Almost all people try to identify the "good guy" and the "bad guy" in such conflicts, but in war there is no "good" guy and no single "bad" guy in this respect only worse or less bad sides.

There is only one way to avoid such atrocities, and that is to avoid war in the first place.

Robert L. Baber, 2006 May 31


4. Do the U.S. and Europe share the same values?

The BBC internet news (bbcnews.com) published an article entitled Continental drift – Do the US and Europe share values or are they growing apart? with date line Saturday, 19 February, 2005, 12:20 GMT.

It seems to me that the answer to the question "Do the U.S. and Europe share the same values?" is clearly and obviously "No", at least as far as the current U.S. government is concerned. Many times President George W. Bush has reiterated the values of the U.S. as being "freedom and democracy". In addition, the values of the EU go much further: peace, respect for human dignity, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Recent events raise considerable doubt that the U.S. government shares these additional EU values.

It further seems to me that democracy and qualified freedom follow from the higher EU values cited above. The qualification on freedom is important. If President Bush means by "freedom" the freedom to decide when the political leader of some other country should be deposed, the EU values do not include that sort of freedom. Neither do they include the freedom to destroy major office buildings in another country. Neither do they include the freedom to imprison persons indefinitely without being charged and tried before a court of law. Etc.

Robert L. Baber, 2005 February 20


3. Politicians' 3 Ps, turkeys gobbling and “do as I say, not as I do”

The polemics, pomp and pagentry in the speeches and political celebrations of U.S. government leaders is becoming ever more reminiscent of the polemics, propaganda and parades of Soviet and other communist countries' leaders in the past. In this regard, politicians seem to be like a flock of turkeys I once observed. They made constant gobbling noises until my friend or I started mimicing them, whereupon they stopped gobbling. As soon as we stopped gobbling, they started again. It seemed important to them that gobbling noises were made, but by whom, didn’t matter. So when some politicians stop polemicizing and indulging in pomp and pagentry, others must start.

The discrepancies between what many U.S. government leaders say (e.g. bring democracy and freedom to the world) and what they do (e.g. detain people incommunicado and indefinitely at the Guantanamo Bay prison and even, according to some news reports, at jails within the U.S.) also seem to be increasing. When I was a child in school in the U.S., we learned that two of the most important aspects of freedom and democracy are that (1) one is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and (2) when the government arrests someone, it must either charge that person with a crime and initiate judicial proceedings within a short time (days, as I recall), allowing the prisoner legal counsel, or else release that person. The person's citizenship was not a condition for applying this principle. If I were a school child today, I would conclude that any society whose government does not uphold this principle is not democratic and is not free.

Perhaps also democracy and freedom are like the turkeys gobbling. As soon as some countries start practicing democracy and freedom, the countries previously practicing them can stop doing so.

Discrepancies as those mentioned above remind me of a statement my father occasionally made to me as a child, "Do as I say, not as I do". But my father made this statement jokingly, fully aware of its irony and implicit unfairness. I do not, however, detect any sense of humor or awareness of irony in the politicians' statements.

It would be a great shame if the discrepancies between what U.S. government leaders do and what they say represent steps in the U.S. relinquishing its most fundamental values – its original reason for existence.

Robert L. Baber, 2005 January 23


2. The Airbus A380

The recently announced Airbus A380 is an impressive achievement, but the sometimes published statement that it is the "largest aircraft ever built" is not true. The Hindenburg and the Graf Zeppelin II were, being more than three times as long as the A380. The Zeppelin NT, currently in civilian commercial service, is also longer and wider than the Airbus A380.

Statements that the Airbus A380 is the "largest ..." must be appropriately qualified, e.g. "airplane", or must use some other dimension to measure size, e.g. load carrying capacity. Not even "heavier than air" is a sufficient qualification, for the Zeppelin NT is normally slightly heavier than air.

The fact that the Airbus A380 is not the largest aircraft should not detract from its fame. It is a marvel of engineering and its construction, of organization. It is making aviation history.

Robert L. Baber, 2005 January 23


1. The following is an email I sent on 2004 December 12:

Subject: Grass-roots Germans' view of the U.S.-European dialogue

To: Mr. Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State,

Copy:
Mr. Joschka Fischer, Außenminister,
Dr. Peter Struck, Verteidigungsminister,
Mr. Gerhard Schröder, Bundeskanzler,
Mr. George W. Bush, U.S. President,
and the editors of several news periodicals

Dear Mr. Powell,

I believe that the following will help you and your colleagues in the U.S. government to understand the views and perceptions of many common folk individual Europeans and, therefore, of their governments. Without such an understanding, the unavoidable differences will lead to a further deterioration of mutual respect and communication between the U.S. and Europe.

You were quoted in a recent news report as saying "We are reaching out to Europe and we hope that Europe will reach out to us". If this is meant sincerely by the U.S. government, most Europeans, myself included, will be glad and we will expect our governments to react positively. If, however, this is only a thinly veiled attempt to try again to get France, Germany and other European countries to send armed forces into war zones, you and we will all be disappointed. The best compromise we can expect is that European nations might contribute some more personnel to training conducted outside war zones, e.g. outside of Iraq.

As a German citizen, I am very proud of the historically unique political development taking place in Europe today. Europe has finally abandoned its centuries old tradition of engaging frequently in war. Next year we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of the last war among EU countries. I believe that this is a new record in European history. We common folk demand that this new evolution toward widespread and lasting peace continue. We expect all of our elected officials to continue to work toward making warfare obsolete in Europe and elsewhere.

If you heard Bundeskanzler Schröder's speech at the D-Day ceremonies earlier this year, you know that he never knew his father because of World War II. It is unrealistic to expect a person with such a personal experience to advocate or support wholeheartedly his country's engagement in armed conflict. Many European (probably most German) families experienced comparable personal tradegies as a result of war and therefore desperately want no more wars. We are unwilling to be party to inflicting such tragedy on others.

Many of my countrymen also share our Verteidigungsminister Dr. Peter Struck's annoyance and frustration at the lack of acknowledgement of Germany's positive contributions in the recent stages of the Iraq conflict and the repeated complaint that Germany refused to make "contributions" that most Germans would have considered to be very negative.

In our perception, France, Germany and other European nations tried hard to help the U.S. before the current Iraq war by encouraging the U.S. not to initiate military action. We do not, therefore, accept the all too frequent complaint that we were unwilling to help the U.S. We tried to help, but were unsuccessful.

Many Iraqis obviously resent the presence of foreign powers in Iraq. Germany should not, therefore, further inflame this sensitivity by its presence in Iraq.

I hope that the above will facilitate mutual understanding and the future communication between the U.S. and European governments. With regard to war, the differences of opinion cannot and will not be eliminated. It would be counterproductive to try to eliminate them. We must find ways to accept each other's decisions and live together anyway, as best as we can.

We in Europe are learning how to do just that among ourselves.

best regards, Bob
======
Dr.-Ing. Robert L. Baber, FBCS, CEng, Eur.Ing.
for addresses see http://www.rlbaber.de
======