Listen to my latest podcasts

There are two sites that feature my podcasts. People who support them on the Web - find my palavering real fun. I jibe at politicians and others - whenever they deserve it. The podcasts here are separated into those in Macedonian and the few in English. There is "About me" page too and some family pics. I plan to run conversational Macedonian chats, but need experience. This is on an OSX platform produced on a GarageBand and featured by iMac on iWeb. This is yet another, my all-Macedonian language podcasting facility put together and maintained by my friend George Zafirovski, an interface Merlin who builds (quickly) his reputation in London, UK. He is quite professional. So

Friday, December 16, 2005

THE RISE AND RISE OF FARAHNAZ KARIMI IN THE HAGUE COMPARED WITH THE EVER GROWING DANGERS FOR ISRAEL


When I disregard my personal motives for the mistrust in Mrs Farahnaz Karimi's integrity to fit the role of a representative of the Tons and Jans of this land I fall into a morass of inconsistencies which other people might be tempted to name lies, a chilling space where with little or no imagination at all one can literally sense (for me same as "see") tarantulas of terror comfortably webbing their networks. Faranhaz Karimi, 45, is a (Persian-born) member of the lower house of the Dutch parliament (Tweede Kamer) and is the spokesperson on foreign affairs for the leftist Groen-Links party. She is busy (a Dutch euphemism) with international co-operation and development (in Dutch: Ontwikkelingssamenwerking, a part of the Ministry of foreign affairs which spends some 8% of the budget on projects in various countries), European affairs and defense (military and strategic aspects of the kingdom inclusive NATO and other EU-force activities).

Neat, is it not, for someone who between 1981 (say March or May) until late 1983 was an active member of the Mujahedien e Khaiq, a notorious terrorist organization. This may be so and then it may not be so at all. Tell me if you have heard that the Mujahedien e Khaiq used to issue admission slips or membership cards. If they did that, they might have also issued dismissal or acceptance of resignation letters with signed and stamped document for returned books, codes, technical or other equipment, solemn vows and oaths. I do not believe that Mrs Karimi has any of those.

We arrived here the same year, 1989, when Ruhollah Khomeini died. I came in this country legally: a journalist who was appointed representative of the Yugoslav National Tourist Office for the Netherlands. My obligation and aim was to spend 2,3 million gulden every year on promotion of the physical beauty and the hospitality awaiting the Dutch in places like Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia. She came in this country, of what I know, illegally. Her aim was to get into politicsbecause as a child she had seen poor people on her way to school. She succeed.

Now, I bring this because, as a journalist (I still carry the cards of both the macedonian and the International Federation of Journalists) I continued to write about various events and people around me. When Desmond Morris, then the director of the London Zoo, wrote the preface to his "Naked Ape" book, he decided to make an interesting remark. He said something along these lines: "There are 267 apes and monkeys. One of the apes is naked and boasts with being the "homo sapiens". Nevertheless, naked or not he still is an ape. I am a zoologist and I will treat him for what he is". Thus, Farahnaz Karimi is a public person and I will write what I think about her behavior as such.

Morass of inconsistencies
Of what she let it be known, Mrs Karimi family background is well above average. Her father was a landowner around Garros (a place which I cannot find on the maps nor on all of the Internet) where she was born on November 15th, 1960. By the time she was six she said she went to a primary school in Tehran. One would imagine that a rich father who strongly supported the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini would be very strict in raising his offsprings whether male or female. The member of such a family would be devoted muslims I reckon. Young Farahnaz could do little, if anything, to oppose such an education, way and philosophy of life. Thus, she must have been formed as a devoted Shia muslim. Her father who was a staunch supporter of the Ayatollah would not have been worth his salt if he would have allowed his family to disintegrate from inside. Or young Karimi was a natural into disguising her real views, her true self in the society swarming with the spying eyes and ears of the SAVAK, the mullahs, the family and the school?

Or was there another reason for her being so successful in shading firs her newly found revolutionary flames and allegiances? Could it be that she left the strict and sheltering home of her father? How, under what conceivable circumstances would a rich landowner in Iran allow, out of a sudden, somebody, actually anybody to take astray his (no adjective here) daughter? By the summer of her last year in high school Iran was in frenzy. The end of her first semester at the Technical University of Isfahan (she chose Industry Design) was the end of the last emperor on the Peacock throne. Mrs Karimi is proud of claiming she did fight against the shah of Iran and his "White Revolution" her landlord father hated so much because among other things it also meant redistribution of land to nearly 3 million landless peasants. We know the consequences of the overthrow of the monarchy. By February 1st Ruhollah Khomeini was the first Muslim cleric in modern times to create an Islamic government based solely on his personal conception of what such a government should entail.  Descended from the Mussavi Sayyeds, a family tracing its lineage from the Prophet Muhammad through the Shiite seventh imam, Musa al-Kazem, Khomeini became an architect of late twentieth century Islamic "revolutionary" thinking.   

Soon after she was with the Mujahedien e Khaiq. There is not a hint who financed her between 1978, after leaving high school, till 1983 when she married and eventually ran out of Iran. Nor there is much about the sources of her existence for the next six years, when she came to The Netherlands. She covers some 14 years of her life being enrolled as a student following "industrial design", "math", "policy-making and administration of international organizations", "general studies" while she was also a mother, a wife and a revolutionary I believe. This last activity is particularly interesting but you will not find a word about it. Her prominence to politics must have invited at least some of her former Khaiq friend to turn to her to say "hi" if not ask for a favor. Did she, does she keep any contacts, discuss the old times, the ideas they shared?

Interrogative style
Mrs Farahnaz Karimi enjoys phrasing her questions in the shape of a circus knife-thrower and then hurls them at her victims whenever she sees fit to do so. Of cours, she refuses to answer the question send to her (repeatedly) by this journalist, To illustrate her manners and style I will use a fraction of your time. This is how mrs Kartimi approached Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, now the Secretary-General of NATO, then the minister of foreign affairs of the Netherlands:

Question
In which framework the president of Kazakhstan visits the Netherlands? Who had invited the president of Kazakhstan? Is that op Dutch initiative? If so, why?
Answer
Upon an invitation of the "regering" President Nazarbayev of Kazachstan will make an official visit to The Netherlands on 27 and 28 november.

Question
Which members of the government will have talks with the president of Kazachstan?
Answer
The president will have bilateral talks with the prime-minister. The delegation talks will be attended by the ministers of foreign affairs, economy, finances, agriculture, environment and fisheries and transport and chanal-network. the ministers of foreign affairs will have separate talks. In the preparation of this visit the Ambassador for human rights had met with a delegation of Kazakhstan opposition.

Question
Are you informed about the international controversy of the detention of the journalist Duvanov in Kazakhstan
Answer
During the visit we shall point to the human rights sphere within which a number of specific cases including the detention of Mr. Duvanov.

Question
Do you share the opinion that the human rights in Kazakhstan are not respected and that the visit under whatever excuse is not wanted?

If I were the minister (and a rich man) my secretary would have sent Mrs Karimi a short letter stating that the minister is very busy for this set of interrogatory questions and let her better wait till the visit is over and make sure she is in parliament when His Excellency will brief the members about this visit by a very, very important head of state she should best show maximum respect while he is official guest of Her Majesty's Government. And then my secretary will be free to call her secretary for coffee and use the opportunity so say that she has a hunch that the minister and all around him find Mrs. Karimi a (and here you can feel free to put any depletive if you are badly mannered).

The point, though is not in throwing insults. The point is why should she be in advance informed who will meet the guest? Why? What does she want to use that sort of information for? Exert pressure? The only use of such an information is to approach or threaten those who will meat the president of Kazakhstan if they do not comply with what? Where is there her role as a policy maker? She thinks that the invitation sucks, stinks should not be there. Fine. Let her go to the parliament and speak up. Or that is not what she had learned while among the Mujahedien e Khaiq?

Then her interest in Sergey Duvanov's case. Sergey Duvanov, the journalist. As if "a student" or "a teacher" or "jobless" would be less important. Probably 90% of his fellow-journalists out there are trying their best to climb as close to this mogul in Alma Ati as it is imaginably possible. Being journalists does not make them saints and freedom-fighters, does it? The guy was detained for screwing a minor. In the netherlands only girls under 13 are safe from predating PE teachers who like to cajole them into sex. Everything above that rape age of womanhood goes and Mrs Karimi had probably voted with both hands to pass that stance into law. He was sentenced and after a year or saw was banished to live in a village with a restricted radius of travel. Of what I recollect she intervened because there was this guy who was a rep out there of a Dutch NGO called MilieuKontakt Oost-Europa. That NGO MilieuKontakt used their rep in Macedonia to trick me into translating something for them and refused to pay the hard-work. I tried to have mrs Karimi put two and two together and see that defending these people from MilieuKontakt is a tricky business - but she refused to even answer. Why? Because the boss of that MilieuKontakt is some Jerphaas Donner who may be and then may be not connected with the important Donners around here. He revealed himself to me as a guy I would never like to meet and would not accept even a painted walnut from his hands. I do not care whether you know what do I mean to say, but I mean it.

Thus: these alliances make the backbone of Mrs. (what was her name) ah, Farahnaz Karimi. The Groen-Links spokesperson on foreign affairs, defense, international money assigning and the rest. She is probably the most significant Iran-related power-broker out of the ruling circle in Tehran. That is how we come to the hottest issue for world peace.

Ahmadinjead and Faranhaz
Just before last year's Christmas recess the parliament in The Hague went along with Faranhaz's lobbying and allocated €15 million ($20 million) for Iranian TV-program from the Netherlands. Despite alegedly "strong" opposition by the Ministry of foreign affairs, the parliament supported the bill (Groen-Links are NOT a coalition party) for a ludicrous project pushed singlehandedly by Mrs. Karimi. The money and the basics behind the project are such that the whole concept speaks (to me) volumes of disturbing stories about the climate in the Dutch Second Chamber. First of all the money is not under Government control but is given to Iranians (in The Netherlands) to produce a TV program (in The Netherlands) which will be transmitted (from The Netherlands) for Iranians (in Iran and elsewhere around the world) or, better, those Iranians who speak Farsi. Get it?
Do not say "yes" if you are not sure. Ok, that is better.

Farsi is only ONE of the 71 languages registered in Iran. Full 69 of them are actively spoken nowadays and 2 are extinct. The most widely spoken language is Azerbejdjani or Azeri (23,5 million) then Farsi (nearly 22 million) Luri and Kurdish (6 million each) Gilaki and Mazanderani (3,2 million each) Turkmen or Turkish 2 million and so forth. You remember that Iran has a population of 78 million. So, who is it possible that the clever people we have elected to the Tweede Kamer did not place some amendments to the bill and asked, say, equal time for Azeri and Farsi, one third of that time for Luri and Kurdis and so on? Or the reps did not even care what languages were spoken out there? Or they trusted Faranhaz Karimi knew what she was doing or what she was telling them? Or they simply throw taxpayer's money away because Faranhaz's spell over them or what?

Now, that is finished. With a TV-station which is everything but her own, with her hand-picked staff and program directed to Iran, Mrs. Karimi is obviously somebody with power. There are not very many of those individuals who can wield a $20 million media hurricane at a country. My father used to say: "It is not responsible the one who eats the pie but the one who gives it". The point is not so much how did she persuade the parliament to give her the money as much how can it be that the parliament does not ask her to explain what did she do with the $20 million? Was shem with her two years "Industrial design" in Isfahan some 20 years ago, the warranty for professional TV-programing? How many professional iranian journalists live and publish TV-content in this country?
Since Mrs Karimi will not, is there anybody to enlighten me about journalism as a profession? If you believe that anybody can step in front of the TV lights and cameras, just tell me and then we can cut the subsidies for this SChool for Journalism where (i hear) Volkskrant former editor is a professor. This whole question is fully public domain because I can plead or scream for all I want Mrs Karimi and the Tweede Kamer will simply ignore me. There is not much sense telling the parliament that they should have spent the money on establishing personalized service for coping with the electronic maii sent to the members by the taxpayers. And maybe the representatives of the people are right. Once you give in to popular demand there is no going back. The voters will ask for more.

So, what is the connection with this Farsi-spoken Dutch-based/payed TV with this alarmingly dangerous statement, Ahmadinjead's call for annihilation of the state of Israel? the connection is Faranhaz. She declared that “The project is not political, but concentrating more on human rights, freedom and democracy” stressing that the new television would not be against the Iranian regime. And furthermore, quite along the perverse standards of any school of duplicity she added the project has “nothing to do with the (Dutch) government”. This means that she takes me for an idiot.

The minister-president could abort the bill (if he only wanted to) by counter-weighing it with a confidence-vote. It cannot be that his own majority in the parliament will throw him out on that issue. If he knew that they would do that - he would resign and there could be no vote at all but he would carry on as a demised, caretaker PM with a fine election issue: how far will these immigrants push the patience of the Dutch? And he could in one go sweep both sides - the left and the right muslim and christian radicals. What Azeri, Luri, Kurdi, Mazanderani or Farsi for that matter when we live here on 6,85 euro a day!

Thus, this Dutch-tresury-financed Farsi program which will not be against the Iranian regime will keep silent about the call by this president for annihilation of Israel: people, culture, all? On "Roozonline" mrs Karimi will meekly say that "Even after the passage of two weeks, Ahmadinejad’s comments continue to reverberate around the globe. At a seminar in Tehran last month, he called for the removal of Israel from the face of the earth....Such a hard-line stance angered many, even those who are known to be critical of Israel’s policies. ... A look at the personalities and world leaders who condemned Ahmadinejad’s stance on Israel demonstrates how widely such remarks and ideas are unacceptable. Oh, that is what worries Mrs Karimi: not the idea itself but how widely it is unacceptable?

Is that so, Faranhaz of the Groen-Links? (You, geachte lezers, know that this was a rhetoric question I could not resist, didn't you!) I have read Faranhaz's text We all need to take some solace that eventually no one can full the world all the time. And concentrate on solving this immediate danger for our future. A bloody or totally unpredictable nuclear confrontation may be in the offing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

DUTCH PM COURTS BLAIR WHILE ALL EUROPE SCREAMS "FOUL"


A day before the beginning of the EU Summit (Friday, Saturday in Brussels) the Dutch PM Jan-Peter Balkenende and his deputy Gerrit Zalm are THE ONLY support for Tony Blair's widely booed final proposal for solution of the EU budget-crysis. The situation is extremely serious. Not that the army of bureaucrats in Brussels and the rest of the huge administration of the EU will not receive their fat salaries. No: those outlays are safe, of course. The tug-of-war over the EU budget for the next five or so years may mean cancellation of the (already announced and fixed) admission of Bulgaria and Rumania on January 1st 2007 but will transform the accession talks with candidate-members Turkey and Croatia into a total waste of time and money and will, eventually make a joke of even discussing the Commission's proposal to grant Macedonia the same candidate-member status.

Why so?

Because as European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso summed it up "It is not credible, let's be honest, to speak about further enlargement of the EU if we are not able at 25 to decide about the future financing of the Union". He said it would be impossible to accommodate Bulgaria and Romania, which are due to join the EU in 2007 or 2008 (oh la-la!), under the British proposal.

That means a hell of lot of trouble around the Balkans.

The arguments behind this forecast are numerous.

1. Whether presiding or not, Tony Blair and the UK with their position about the budget remain in the EU well after this summit is over.
2. Manuel Barroso, this is obvious, was not qualified to lead marginal Portugal and obviously is a far cry from a profile to fit the chair of Jacques Delors. He is a provincial heavyweight.
3. The EU has allowed the emergence of Ahmadinejad et comp. in the Middle East with now direct agenda to annihilate the State of Israel, the single most serious acute problem for the world
4. Fiddling about cash subsidies with so many open, outright dangerous fires around the globe saps the will to address the larger issues.
5. Repositioning the EU Constitution as a priority is the only chance to put the European act together and set the mechanisms which will help the US and the EU guide or push the UN into establishing norms and priorities for the future of this civilization;

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BEGGING MONEY FOR SCRATCHES ON THE ROCKS


The other day I received this message from somebody I know on the Pacific coast. The guy indiscriminately litters the Internet with news about Macedonia, praise of the GOP and every acid comment about the Democrats. Occasionally he sends batches of jokes and high-resolution porn. I get very upset when he decides to promote a certain nut-case who blabbers about 23 centuries of Macedonian history, but in general, he spread a lot of uncensored stuff. This time I was surprised with the subtlety of his mail. He decided to forward an appeal or solicitation by d-r Dusko Aleksovski for money. This appeal for money by the expert of Rock Art (that is the scratches on rocks thought to be "writings" by apes or neanderthal men and women of some 40,000 years ago) is thinly disguised as an offer for sale of four gold and five silver medals (Olympic?) valued at $30,000 for just as little cash as to buy $7,000-$8,000 worth of digital equipment and the best lap-top. Mr. Dusko Aleksovski needs this hardware because "he has to" (that is interesting) "present Macedonia" to the participants of the (IFRAO) congresses on Rhodes and then in Lisbon.

He wants to own the equipment, not rent it for the two (eventually 20-30 minutes) presentations. If the event is well attended - there are 20-22 people al-in-all present during the lofty name "Congress of IFRAO". There were ONLY 16 delegates during the Congress (relegated then to "A Third Business Meeting") in Cairnes, Australia, when the Macedonian association was accepted as the 24-th member of IFRAO. Can you imagine how much this scientist sacrifices for Macedonia?

It is obsolete to ask why did Aleksovski spend $30,000 to buy those medals instead of purchasing a fine Nikon for $1,000 and the best Apple lap-top for about $1,500? It is also useless to ask what do those 14-carat gold medals represent to be so valuable? It is also very, very risky to ask what has Macedonia to do with scratches on rocs of 40,000 years when we are told by similar individuals that we derive directly from Alexander II the Great of Macedon. Full stop.

This guy tries to get the money from the Macedonians from all over the world so that he could tell what? That they derive from the apes or the neolithic creatures who roamed the caves of the planet? Thus: it is not Cyril and Metodij who invented the cyrillic alphabet but there were other literate men who wrote in "pra-Macedonian" 40 millenia ago and mr. Aleksovski will now decode their messages!

PICASSO IN ISTANBUL, CEMERSKI IN SKOPJE


Roughly about six years ago efendi Sakip Sabanci, one of the richest Turks in history, practically evicted himself out of his own home, a mansion with an majestic view over Istanbul and the Bosphorus. People came to watch and then talked over tea about what they have seen: the steady removal of Sabanci’s furniture and crystal, huge Chineese porcelain vases and centuries old large carpets rolled and wrapped to resemble the barel of a Fat Berta cannon. Most of the valuables were being sent off to safekeeping. When finally all the premises were empty, people told me that Mr Sabanci (died last year at 71) walked around, his footsteps echoing, and then, leaving with just a sigh the house of his childhood, ordered the real work to begin. The family home of the Sabanci was being remodeled into a museum. After two full intensive years of expert work, Sakip Sabanci Museum of Art opened in March 2002 displaying some 380 stunning pieces of Ottoman calligraphy and Turkish modern paintings. Sabanci donated the collection, the mansion and about $35 million dollars (for post-humous upkeep)as an endowment to an Istanbul University.

Last week in a newly built gallery next to those premises atop a hill overlooking the glorious city, opened the "Picasso in Istanbul" a very prestigious and probably ."the most politically loaded art exhibition anywhere in the world". It will run for four months, till March 25, ample time for the new generation of Sanacis to drum up maximum national and, evidently, international attention to the event. And to the determination behind it. Eventually, these four month may qualify to become a tourning point in Turkish cultural history. In my view all this prods for a visit to Istanbul and of course, the Sabanci complex: the Museum of Art and the Gallery.

The first time we went to Istanbul to prepare my first midget-sized book on Turkey, Sabanci had just taken over the family textile business from his father. I was freshly back from London (where earlier this year the Royal Academy lavishly presented The Turks, an extraordinary exhibition of absolute rarities, first time ever seen in the West) and Turkey did not impress me. With latter visits things changed. My lenses of the beholder widened or my perception skills improved. I begun falling in love with the country, its people, arts and history. Six months ago I was impressed with Tayup Erdogan's composed tone at the opening in London and wandered how will he prove that he means what he says. The Turks exhibition (it excited many reviewers enthusiastic, some went out of themselves in praising the art while at the same time bitterly attacking the political calculus allegedly behind it) wrapped up months ago, the accession negotiations with the EU have begun and one wondered whether that was it. Now we know it was not.

These Picasso nudes introduced to the Turkish public by the whores of Avignon in the presence of tout l'Istanbul speak volumes about the profound secularization of the Turkish society. Subtlety and ambiguity of expression thrives here as an old local art. Of what I know Turkish attitudes Picasso's will fare comfortably well here. None of his art carries an easy to recognize wanton sexuality and the nudity will not be offensive. "Jeunne filles au bord de la Seine" may be taken as an arabesque. Even the explicitly drawn genitals (as in his "Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (apres Manet)", the lonely "Nude Boy" or the white "Nude in Red Armchair") appear, for this age of explicit pornography, driving the mind into venues of thought where only few, if any, of the most radical religious leaders will be comfortable to face opposition by the young, educated and the secular compatriots. On the other hand the Sabanci clan can (for domestic use) underline that this was a life obsession and a death wish of a great benefactor. The imams would have to bear that in mind too. The Turks love encrypting their messages and even direct threats will be cotton-and-silk wrapped, practically beyond recognition for the untrained ear or reasoning. There may be oblique references towards over-exploitation of a theme. Since Turks are very handy with clay and weaving, the public should not have any problem with that media - visibly present in the selection of the lead curator Marilyn McCully.

Presenting a representative selection of Picasso's oevre anywhere, even in the most recently build galleries and museums is a significant achievement. The sheer architecture of the building housing the Sabanci Museum would have been a disheartening problem to display 135 world-known canvasses. The former 22 rooms of the Italian styled mansion atop the elevation with an exclusive view was built for family pleasure and entertainment. (You may wish to have a look into the video presenting the museum by clicking here). It would have been very difficult to find an adequate place to hang any of the large canvasses here. But then, Sabanci had a dream to present Picasso in istanbul and he built a state-of-the-art gallery next to the mansion. There the large woolen tapestry (rarely seen) of "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" looks great. That tapestry is not much (Picasso commissioned it in 1958 for his house in Cannes) but is better than nothing: the original painting (1907, restored a year ago) of the whores, the pivotal work for all of the modern art, never leaves either New York or MoMA. The tapestry is kind of Wikipedia entry about the "Demoiselles". Their original has now an altogether new appearance since layer after layer of surface dirt was removed and the discoloration of wax and varnish used in earlier repairs corrected. For the new "Demoiselles" one must fly to New York.

I doubt that this exhibition will entice many to do just that: make a pilgrimage to MoMA. It is hardly probable that the show (abundantly supported with all sorts of books, audio and video, guides, seminars, lectures, CD-R and you name it) will change anything related to Picasso. But this may affect the general attitude toward abstract and figurative art. This is the home ground of the severest iconoclastic pogroms. Christians (first) and (much latter) Muslims alike had their ample share of bans on painting human faces. There would have been rivers of blood if the apostles (not to speak of the Virgin) were shown naked. Would be pretty hard now too. Thus: this is a great step forward in every sense.

Guler Sabanci, nice to the founder and chair of the board of trustees, effervesces how "culture brings people together, avoids prejudices, breaks down borders" how it celebrates freedom of expression and goes on and on. Her point is done, she needs not knocking on heaven's doors: this exhibition made the big, heavy door of the international museum circuit wide open for Sabanci. If that private newcomer could pull it off one would expect that the Topkapi or the Anatolian Civilizations Museum, winner of Museum of the Year award, could easily stage similar exhibitions. Not so. Adequate space is needed and I would bet that we shall soon hear about a start of new gallery or modern arts museum. It will be very interesting to see what the French will say about this event they so willingly a unreservedly supported.

Sabanci used to overdo it when he told that his dad was a poor man. When my son Igor (who starts his term as Consul General of Republic of Macedonia in Istanbul this December 26-th) started school and I was a poor newsman in Skopje, Sakip Sabanci had Turgout Ozal as his first deputy in the firm. Latter, Ozal left Sabanci and embarked on a political carreer to become first the prime minister and then the president of Turkey. Ozal always had an ear for business but he was extra attentive towards his former employer. Now they are both gone but they have done a hell of lot for their country. I wish I did a fraction of what they did.

Sabanci was probably one of the first three businessmen who succedded in turning around a textile sweatshop it into a conglomerate with $12 billion in sales, that is about 5% of the GDP of Turkey, and 32,000 employees. The firm is now much more in food, plastics and cement and whatever than in textiles. He bought enterprises in 11 countries. Sabanci owns Japanese Toyota and the French Danone. Quite a change, strikingly visible from the 39-th floor of his business headqarters 39-story building.

Once Matthew Swibbel published an extensiove article about Sabanci in Forbes magazine. Now, for my taste, Forbes is one of those publications one cannot trust much because their collecting department seems to have a subtle and delayed policy related to compensation of the space dedicated to profiles of people, enterprises or countries. A laudatory article sooner or later eventually, so it appears to my eye, is supported with a payed advertisment. So, this guy wrote how Sabanci actually got motivated to collect art. He, allegedly, did not either understand nor love art but decided to mimick the filthy rich of the west. Sabanci did not begin buying early Ottoman manuscripts and calligraphy to show off or compete with the Matisses or the Picassos of the American tycoons. He chose to collect calligraphy.

The Forbes-type of wealthy people do not know much of Islamic art even less of the rich Ottoman collections. Atop Topkapi the sultans had their long laws or decrees, better known as hatiserifs and fermans, written by artists on parcments of scrolls, topped by the personal seal, tugra, of the kaliph. Calligraphy, in a way, is practically the foremost form of artist expression in the islamic world. But calligraphy is not painting. Then, it is illegible for those who do not know Arabic and although very pleasing to the eye, they are not the most sought after items for art collectors. When we stayed in Istanbul, somewhere 1967, we could purchase a piece for as low as $300. I lacked the courage to hang a framed calligraphy on the wall of my flat in Skopje. Nowadays it costs about 15 times as much, which is not even half the price of a Cemerski small painting.

Sabanci spent some $14 million building his collection. An illuminated 1541 Koran (that is the period of Suleiman the Magnificent) is probably the most valuable piece (it may cost about $500,000) and around it Sabanci built a reasonable collection. Till now the Sabanci's collection was presented in the Louvre, Berlin, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Harvard University. Sotheby's and Christie's catalogs feature Ottoman calligraphy on paper with prices from from $3,000 to $333,000. Other rich people in Turkey mimick Sabanci and collect calligraphy.

Now, I expect, Turkish millionaires will begin bidding for works by modern artists. If new, carefully chosen themes or artists for large-scale exhibitions follow, then one may be assured that Istanbul will have asserted itself as an important missing link. If Ankara, Izmir and Bursa host within 3-4 years time less provocative but equally well thought of art-shows, then we will have finally understood how badly wrong we all were about Turkey. I say this fully aware of all the worn out slogans which are here deliberately omitted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

ELVIS PRESLEY, DAVID BLUNKET & JAN-PETER BALKENENDE

Misfortune hits Mr. David Blunkett relentlessly. It was disclosed that he had been (for two months) employed by a firm which is an occasional supplier to the state. Prime-minister Tony Blair defendid his trusted friend but could not save him. The chairman of the British Committee on Standards in Public Life (can you imagine that sort of institution here?) Sir Alistair Graham said the norms must be stiffened and added (insult to injury) that he disagreed with Tony Blair that Mr Blunkett had not been guilty of impropriety. This is absolutely crazy: as if a copied version of Ms Verdonk's statement that Schiphol horrendous fire was handled "satisfactorily".

You might know that Mr David Blunkett quit his post as Work and Pensions secretary (that is a junior minister) on Wednesday after breaking the ministerial code of conduct over paid work he took while out of the Cabinet. The BBC weaved a story claiming that "David Blunkett's life and political career has been one of the most colourful and controversial in recent British history". Maybe. In my view much more colorful is the biography of Abraham "Bram" Peper as described by your journalists, but let me not lose the thread. Mr Blunkett's childhood is likened with Oliver Twist's and painted in Dickensian dark hues. He was born blind and sent off (at the age of four) to a local boarding school against the wishes of his parents who were hard working people. Now, David Blankett is not 85 years of age. This did not happen 1920. You will not believe it, but this is 1956 (Little Richard released "Tutti-Frutti" and Elvis Presley "Don't be Cruel") but the council (indeed incredible) did not allow his mom to visit him but once a month. There is more: when he reached 12, his father fell into a container with scalding liquid and suffered a horrible death. He developed into a labourite. By the time he was 33 or 35 (he is born 1951) Blunkett got into government. He was efficient minister of education and the next thing he got was the Home Office. Minister of Interior in 2001, Downing Street material. Then it was disclosed that his staff expedited a visa for a nanny for his mistress. He had to resign. Only five months latter he was brough back into Cabinet as Work and Pensions secretary. Now, this appears to be his political end. His offense was in the fact that he earned, for only two months, salary in a firm which supplied product to institutions paid by the government.

Can you imagine that? He did not say that fire-fighting is "adequate" when fire-engines cannot get close to the detention center because it is fenced all around. It is "adequate" when firemen must look how fire blazes, people shriek and die in pain because nobody dares brake the damned fence erected to keep them in. No water hozes, no pales with water or boxes with sand. Burned alive, adequately.

THIS is the story the Dutch prime-minister Jan-Peter Balkenende should tell to the parliament. And to the land.He does not need to speak about a Committee on Standards in Public Life. That is for the British, not for the Dutch. The latter need not know that other nations have fixed norms what is ethical and moral and what is not.

P.S.
The public was informed that the Police had wiped away the graffiti with slogans against Ms Rita Verdonk, minister for integration or immigration. I find it quite normal. This Blogg is read by 20-30 people. Nobody cares. The graffiti are seen by 20-30 thousand. They are smart, the Police. But I nevertheless believe that Rita Verdonk should resign right away.

DUTCH SOCIALISTS, PEOPLE, CATTLE

Some time ago Mr. Jan van Zanen from the Partij van de Arbijd arrived to a great conclusion and promptly published it on the PvdA website. His concept of what needs to be done for us the people of the XXI century is somewhat condensed and that exactly makes it interesting. See for yourselves: Leden zijn het levenselixer voor politieke partijen. Mensen zijn immers nodig voor draagvlak, opvattingen, idee├źn, centen en bepalen het gezicht. Politieke partijen zijn vervolgens het middel om tot iets te komen - daden bijvoorbeeld - in een parlementaire democratie. Iemand moet het namens ons doen: in de gemeente en in het land. De straten schoon en veilig, het werk bereikbaar en het gras gemaaid. Weet u iets beters? Zo ja, ik hoor het graag. See, the guy invites us to speak up.

Interesting, but it seems that the cattle in a parliamentary democracy get just the same attention. The cows, bulls and calves are provided with a safe (from wolves, coyotes and the like on one side and from braking their expensive feet in potholes, on the other) passage to grazing and milking locations. Nobody makes them walk for miles or standing in a stuck traffic for hours. That's a fact. Now, what happens when people, unlike cattle, ask for transparency of the decision-making processes, when they want to influence more than the frequency of grass-mowing of the greens around their bedrooms? What happens when at least some of the people want strict accountability from those who were elected to spend public moneys?

Forget the gras: it will remain neat throughout march, respond to other questions. Say, on what ground did the PvdA employ in its think-tank Ayan Hirshi Ali, a person who could not have spoken the truth to the immigration officer when she applied (in Somalia or elsewhere in Africa) for a visa (of what kind) to enter Canada or whatever other country? Did she tell her family, the beloved father of her true intentions before she jumped off the flight in Frankfurt?

My point is that no political party can evade the real questions without falling in the gutter of either cattle-level perspectives or kitchen-sink chit-chat. If for nothing else then for its own sake this society needs to address the burning questions of the day. It just happens to be that the justice ministers take the brunt of the public dissatisfaction with brazen evasion of truth or disdain on the part of the political establishment. It is to be expected that the VVD will again pay dearly for the arrogance of some of their front-row members. Especially Rita Verdonk who, I must remind you, needs to momentarily resign. Especially after we are slowly and painfully given more and more thorn beats of what was happening in the detention center (under her and Donner's command) when the 11 met their terrible ends. In my view she epitomizes the shortcomings of all the public figures in this land if not much wider.

HOPEFUL HUMANS SCORCHED ON SCHIPHOL

Parents bring their kids to play plane-spotting at the edge of the huge Schiphol airport. The children enjoy being there too: there is a Macdonalds restaurant with a small playground as an extra attraction. It features a model airplane in which boys and girls crawl and scream. The place looks so peaceful. Only an occasional flare with a big bang scares the birds away. The airport authority, Schiphol is mainly a Dutch state property, does not want the seagulls fill the engines of the landing aircraft and come out, as in cartoons, scorched on the other end of the jets. You see an occasional flame and whiff of smoke around the aircraft tires at touch down.

My six-year old grandson Christian loves the place. His attitude derives more from the meals and the playtime than the sights or the actual air travel. He now recognizes some of the planes, the hangars, the control tower, the terminals. I never told him that the low laying construction out there was the airport detention center. Even if I knew I would have shied away: too difficult to clearly differentiate between detain and arrest, between criminal and offender of the law.

In this peaceful quiet corner of Schiphol, where at least 20,000 people roam daily, five or six minutes into October 27, eleven out of some 200-300 unsuspecting detainees were burned alive. These might have been people like me, grandfathers who wanted to bring a Christmas toy for their grandchildren in some faraway villages. We may never know: their bodies were charred beyond recognition and the Dutch state tries its best to hush up, actually to completely cover-up this tragedy. In my only honest logic is needed to understand what was happening and why these innocent people were scorched under the lights of Europe's fourth largest airport.

This detention center is one of many in the Netherlands. Here the authorities (Ministry of Justice) keep mainly aliens who after disembarking from aircraft landing on Schiphol try to enter this rich country without visa or papers. Instead of placing them back and seeing them off on the return flight with the same aircraft, they are detained. Allegedly, there are others who smuggle dope which they swallowed after having it wrapped in plastic. All of them are locked two in a windowless cell. Logic guides me to conclude that the cement cubicle has only two iron beds with some sort of thin mattress, blanket and hopefully a pillow. Excluding their own bodies and clothes the detainees have nothing else to burn. Furthermore, the things which might be lighted up to burn can only cause a fire which is put out by stomping or peeing over. So, the question the ministers must answer is simple: "What burned so hard as to produce a fire in which eleven hopeless people are scorched beyond recognition, an inferno which the fire brigade could not extinguish"? The horrible deaths of those people is a burning question indeed. This is a tragedy and a huge emotional, moral and legal issue. How will the Dutch society tackle it?

If it does not - the parliament was told that the fire was treated "accordingly" - what are the chances that the world community tells the Dutch "We cannot allow you to let our citizens burn to death while in your custody".

My point is that this Dutch government may not be allowed to get away with this cover-up. The fire-brigade implied it could not approach the burning wing of the detention center because of a fence! Not a wall: a fence of chicken-wire. This may mean that the firemen watched from yards away the flames and listened to the forsaken cries of those burning alive. What stopped them tear the fence down? It is obvious that some ministers, those offering their condolences instead of their resignations, will have to be fired. Whatever was that burned for so long it should not be there. Full stop. The top boss of the security unit must be fired. The administration must have known all the names, cell after cell, of the individuals in custody. How many were in custody three hours after the fire was put of? How many were missing and exactly how many bodies scorched beyond recognition? The report by the commanding officer of the Fire brigade must be made public irrelevant who does it affect. A gentleman by the name of Ben Ale (the head of the Dutch institute for fire-protection, NIBRA) stated that either the flames were raging for full two hours before the firefighters arrived or the cells did not conform to safety rules.

Now, of course that incidents which explode into tragedies happen everywhere. But this tragedy happened under unexplained circumstances. Every single possible trick was used to minimize the awful impact which the full truth might have had on the public. There is absolutely no point withholding any information under any pretext. Feeble excuses are lies or semi-truths. They show full disrespect for the obligation to come out with all the neat facts. The notorious arrogance of the Dutch establishment in general and in situations when it is blatantly clear it is responsible for a huge public mess will eventually trigger an international backlash against Dutch attitudes.