Saturday, September 17, 2005

This picture was not taken by me. I have no idea who holds the copyright.

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Men walkin’ ’long the railroad tracks
Goin’ someplace there’s no goin’ back
Highway patrol choppers comin’ up over the bridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin’ ’round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin’ in their cars in the southwest
No home no job no peace no rest
The highway is alive tonight
But nobody’s kiddin’ nobody about where it goes
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light
Searchin’ for the ghost of tom joad
He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin’ for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box ’neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and gun in your hand
Sleepin’ on a pillow of solid rock
Bathin’ in the city aqueduct
The highway is alive tonight
Where it’s headed everybody knows
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light
Waitin’ on the ghost of tom joad
Now tom said mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight against the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me mom I’ll be there
Wherever there’s somebody fightin’ for a place to stand
Or a decent job or a helpin’ hand
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free
Look in their eyes mom you’ll see me.
Well the highway is alive tonight
But nobody’s kiddin’ nobody about where it goes
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old tom joad

By Bruce Springsteen

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Little Plastic Castle

In a coffe shop in a city

Which is every coffee shop in every city

On a day which is every day

I picked up a magazine

Which is every magazine

Read a story, and then forgot it right away

They say goldfish have no memory

I guess their lives are much like mine

And te little plastic castle

Is a surprise every time

And it’s hard to say if they’re happy

But they don’t seem much to mind

From the shape of your shaved head

I recognized your silhouette

As you walked out of the sun and sat down

And the sight of your sleepy smile

Eclipsed all the other people

As they passed to sneer at the two girls

From out of town

I said, look at you this morning

You are, by far, the cutest

But be careful getting coffee

I think these people wanna shoot us

Or maybe there’s some kinda of local competition here

To see who can be the rudest

People talk

About my image

Like I come in two dimensions

Like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind

Like what I happen to be wearing

The day that someone takes a picture

Is my new statement for all of womenkind

I wish they could see us now

In leather bras and rubber shorts

Like some ridiculous new team uniform

For some ridiculous new sport

Quick someone call the girl police

And file a report

In a coffee shop in a city

Which is every coffee shop in every city

On a day which is every day

Ani DiFranco, from Little Plastic Castle

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Flood and Disaster Capitalism

In January Condeleezza Rice sparked a small controversy describing the tsunami as ‘a wonderful opportunity’ that ‘has paid great devident for us.’ Condy, Condy, shame on you. Would you dare a similar comment on the current situation in New Orleans? Well, probably not. And at least you aren’t hiding what often is out of side behind the backs of generous donours and smiling politicians.

I stumbled across the above mentioned quote in an article in The Nation (find the full article under and although I don’t trust the neo-cons in Washington – and elsewhere - and their pals in the IMF and the Worldbank – and elsewhere -an inch, it was still rather sobering reading.

It makes me angry to get to know that the deadly wave affecting millions around the Indian Ocean was followed by a second tsunami of corporate globalization and militarization breaking up local economies and reshaping whole societies without people’s chance for input in it. Who could have thought of the fact that they are too busy trying to survive instead of opposing a forced change in legislation shortly after the desaster?

It makes me angry to get to know that Afghanistan’s healthcare system along with parts of the water system, oil, gaz and mining has been privatized long before the country had an elected government who could have opposed the move. Would have been a shame if the country’s citizens would use their democratic rights to spoil such excellent business opportunities.

And it makes me angry to get to know that many Central American countries had to sell off their national assets worth billions in order to have access to the few millions of aid money after Hurricane Mitch in the late 1990s. Do you remember when Bechtel took over the water system in Bolivia (I think it was Bolivia) and requested from the then government to stop people from collecting rain water because it belongs to Bechtel. Mass protests were confronted by riot police and tear gaz and more than a dozen people were shot dead before the government had to take its hat – and Bechtel had to think of an alternative to screw people. Well, that was peanuts compared to the forced privatisation after Hurricane Mitch.

In the same article it is mentioned that on August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. Although this office is supposed to draw up US-friendly post-conflict plans for countries which are not yet in conflict (who came up with this idea???), one wonders if it wouldn’t be good to give these guys a more useful job and put them to work on the impacts of Katrina. Maybe they are actually good at what they are doing. And if it’s criminal energy driving them to excellence, just give them the Katrina scenario with Arab names attached to the places in the South West and tell them it would be about another beam of democracy and market economy export to a far-away land headed by bearded tyrans with a communist touch to their politics. That should do the job.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Cheney called in as Bush says he will lead his own inquiry into Katrina

So I learned from the The Guardian on Wednesday September 7, 2005. Wow, that’s finally good news. After all the incompetence and pr lies on display for the last week, we finally get to know who and what didn’t live up to the expected standard. I am glad to hear that the inquiry will be headed by a intellectual star known for his sound analytical brain, his neural ground on the issues as well as his eloquent way of being precise and to the point. I don’t expect no beating around the Bush (sorry, couldn’t help it) when this report will be shared with the public. ‘Thank you, King George, Jr. We look forward to hear from you soon. The world needs you.’

So now that we got some clarity on this issue, I am wondering why this narrow-minded Steve Bell from the Guardian is still dishing out these nasty cartoons. Bloody Brits, can’t trust ‘em. Say they are our allies and now that. Just like the others from the Axis of Annoyance.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

This picture was not taken by me. I have no idea who holds the copyright.

tis of thee

they caught the last poor man on a poor man's vacation
they cuffed him and they confiscated his stuff
and they dragged his black ass down to the station
and said "ok the streets are safe now.
all your pretty white children can come out to see spot run
and they came out of their houses and they looked around
but they didn't see no one.
and my country tis of thee
to take swings at each other on talk show tv
why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun
'cause we'll never live long enough to
undo everything they've done to you
undo everything they've done to you
and above 96th street,
they're handing out smallpox blankets
so people don't freeze
the old dogs they got a new trick
it's called criminalize the symptoms
while you spread the disease
i hold on hard to something
between my teeth when i'm sleeping
and i wake up and my jaw aches
and the earth is full of earthquakes
and my country tis of thee
to take shots at each other on prime time tv
why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun
'cause we'll never live long enough to
undo everything they've done to you
undo everything they've done to you
they caught the last poor man 
flying away in a shiny red cape
and they brought him down to the station
and they said "boy you should know better
than to try and escape"
and i ran away with the circus
'cause there's still some honest work left for bearded ladies
but it's not the same goin' town to town
since they put everyone in jail 'cept
the cleavers and the bradys
and my country tis of thee
to take swings at each other on talk show tv
why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun
'cause we'll never live long enough to
undo everything they've done to you
undo everything they've done to you

By Ani DiFranco

Monday, September 05, 2005

Bits and Pieces – Impressions from Uganda – Part VI

The family failed to protect him. So did his community. His country and its mighty army. The international community wasn’t much of a help either. When it came hard to hard he was by himself. He was alone when the rebels came to take him away. It was up to him to take decisions, which decided about life and death. His life and his death. And he is alone now. He has to decide if he stays with the rebels and tries to stay alive. Or if he takes the risk and tries to escape. He knows the punishment for attempted flights if you get caught. You are brutally killed. Not just shot but clubbed to death by your fellow abductees. How can he ever have trust in his family, his community, his state and its army or the international community again. They failed once when it came to his protection. Who guarantees that they will do better the next time.

Sunday. The day of the bungee chicken. I have to go down to Ft. Portal and Kasese. That’s in the west of Uganda, at the foot of the Rwenzories, the famous Mountains of the Moon (I think it was Ptolomy some two thousand years ago who first told the world outside Africa about them). It is a nice and sunny day and I am really looking forward to the journey. It is quite a long trip – probably eight hours in the car – but it passes through some of the nicest parts of the country. And even before I get off the main road, I can already enjoy some funny scenes from Uganda’s daily life. Especially on Sundays you find many people on the roads. They are walking to church, to friends and relatives, they are standing along the roads and chat with each other, buy or sell things, wait for the busses or just sit in the shade and enjoy their day off. The scene I like most about being on the road on Sundays is that you see many people bringing chickens to the markets. Sunday is the day when people afford to eat meat. So who ever wants to sell chicken tries to do so on the week-ends. And in rural Africa chicken are always sold alive. With the heat in the tropics the meat would get spoiled too soon if already slaughtered in the morning. So the birds have to be brought to the market somehow. But how? Well, nothing easier than that. Tie their legs and then hang them up-side down from your bike. On some bikes you just see two or three, on others you see as many as 20 or more. It looks funny. I wonder if the chickens like it? And I wonder if the chickens could understand that thrill- seeking people from other parts of the planet pay quite a bit of money to do something similar?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

From Steve Bell from the Guardian (

This picture was not taken by me. I have no idea who holds the copyright.

The World Isn’t Fair

When karl marx was a boy
He took a hard look around
He saw people were starving all over the place
While others were painting the town
The public spirited boy
Became a public spirited man
So he worked very hard and he read everything
Until he came up with a plan

There’ll be no exploitation
Of the worker or his kin
No discrimination ’cause of the color of your
No more private property
It would not be allowed
No one could rise too high
No one could sink too low
Or go under completely like some we all know

If marx were living today
He’d be rolling around in his grave
And if I had him here in my mansion on the hill
I’d tell him a story t’would give his old heart
A chill

It’s something that happened to me
I’d say, karl I recently stumbled
Into a new family
With two little children in school
Where all little children should be
I went to the orientation
All the young mommies were there
Karl, you never have seen such a glorious sight
As these beautiful women arrayed for the night
Just like countesses, empresses, movie stars and
And they’d come there with men much like me
Froggish men, unpleasant to see
Were you to kiss one, karl
Nary a prince would there be

Oh karl the world isn’t fair
It isn’t and never will be
They tried out your plan
It brought misery instead
If you’d seen how they worked it
You’d be glad you were dead
Just like I’m glad I’m living in the land of the
Where the rich just get richer
And the poor you don’t ever have to see
It would depress us, karl
Because we care
That the world still isn’t fair

By Randy Newman

Bits and Pieces – Impressions from Uganda – Part V

We are the product of our environment. Our history, our relations and the things we encounter shape our identity. That’s nothing new. It’s one of these learnings from the books. And it is one I agree with. But sometimes it still takes me by surprise when I have a closer look at what that actually means. Especially in a context like the one of northern Uganda. Imagine: A ten-year old boy comes to your office and reports about unexploded ordnances – ammunition, bombs, mines, grenates, etc. - close to his family’s home. Their homestead is close to a training range from the Ugandan army. And since the Ugandan army is not too concerned about ammunition shot into fields and homesteads beyond the actual training area, you often hear about such things being found all over the place. Or you see people being wounded by them while herding their animals, digging in their fields or going to the well. While the fact that life ammunition lies around in Acholiland is sad enough, it becomes even weirder when you hear a small child telling you exactly what was found. ‘It’s a 120 mm mortar shell. The one that carries these little bombs inside.’ Often they can even tell you if we are talking about a product from Eastern Europe or from South Africa, if we are talking about old things from the war or new stuff from recent years. ‘You are supposed to know your ABCs and struggle with multiplication and so on. You are way to young to tell one deadly weapon from another’, I think to myself. ‘But I guess you are what your environment let’s you be.’ What world is this we are living in where small children know the difference between a mortar shell and a rocket propelled grenate. But they don’t know how to read or write, what’s the state’s capital or the name of the neighboring district.

The Mango season started. All over northern Uganda you find thousands of mango trees. And within weeks they start blossoming, little fruit will appear, they will grow and turn from green to orange. At least in theory. Many of them will not make it to that stage, since the children go crazy for them. As soon as the first little fruits are visible, the young ones start climbing the trees to get them. Once the mangoes are a bit bigger, children take stones and sticks to make them fall down. But despite this hunt, there are still plenty of mangoes left by the time they are really ripe, sweet and juicy. And since the season for them is short, everyone eats as many as possible. Children are seen with their faces colored in yellow, their shirts dripping of mango juice. All along the foot paths you see the peel and stones of the fruit – and millions of flies having a feast on the left-overs. Hardly anyone moves for more then a couple of minutes without a fresh mango in his/her hand. The ones which are too lazy to pick them themselves can buy heaps of six or eight or ten for less than 10 cents.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

This picture was not taken by me. I have no idea who holds the copyright.


Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay
There’s always one reason
To feel not good enough
And it’s hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I’ll find some peace tonight

In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there

So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There’s vultures and thieves at your back
And the storm keeps on twisting
You keep on building the lie
That you make up for all that you lack
It don’t make no difference
Escaping one last time
It’s easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
This glorious sadness that brings me to my knees

In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here

Sarah McLachlan

Bits and Pieces – Impressions from Uganda – Part IV

Where has all the power gone. Long time passing. Where has all the power gone. Long time ago. For two days Gulu is without electricity. And as so often, power goes off when you really need it. I sit in the office and try to scan and print important documents for our current workshop. A kind of a hard job, when there is no power. The fact that it is already Friday makes it likely that there wont be power before Monday – when the workshop is over.

Six thirty in the evening. Dusk is approaching. And as on any other day, thousands of people are on their way towards the city center. Mostly children and youth. Some carry a bed sheet, a blanket or a plastic sheet. Others just come with whatever they wear. They will look for a place to sleep. When ever the rebels are in the area, people try to get a save place for the night. The old ones stay in the rural areas and take care of the houses, the belongings, the animals, while the younger ones, the ones that are likely to be abducted into the rebel’s ranks migrate to town and come back the next morning. Who ever is too far away from the town to go onto this daily pilgrimage, will sleep somewhere in the bush. ‘The Green Lodge’, as one of my friends calls it. No matter if it is raining and cold. Being inside your own house is too dangerous. You are found too easily.

magine. There is a group of about 50 women. They have come for a residential training. So breakfast, lunch and supper is provided. Nothing fancy, but for many people in the area quite nice food. So is sugar for the tea. And people in East Africa take a lot of sugar in their tea. And usually they just take a bit of tea leafs. During the daily tea break at work my colleagues normally take about four to five tablespoons per cup. And they always smile at me in disbelieve when I don’t take any sugar at all or when I am satisfied with half a teaspoon. Despite the fact that I know all that, I was never the less very surprised, that four and a half days into the seminar 75 kilograms of sugar were gone. Amazing. Especially when I think of how long a kilogram of sugar lasts in my household. Weeks, months, more depending on the number of visitors then on my own consumption.