Dear Switzerland: WTF?

Dear Switzerland,

You welcomed me with open arms as a child immigrant from 1997-1998. You unknowingly shaped my life in immeasurable ways. I attended your schools and played in your community bands. In short, I love the cheese and wine you produce, not to mention your beautiful landscapes. I’ve even made a lifelong friend.

I get that you have this image of yourself of being all progressive and such. Sure, you helped broker the peace between the United States and the United Kingdom after their help in the construction of ships like the CSS Alabama, an process that lead to the creation of the League of Nations, hosted in Geneva. You also host many of the world’s premier international institutions and are held in high esteem worldwide.

I mean, ok, you didn’t give women the right to vote until 1971, and heck you didn’t join the United Nations until 2002 (despite the fact that you host a large portion of UN organizations), but whatever.

And, while I knew this was probably coming, I was a bit surprised when I heard today that you decided to ban new minarets. You’re freaked out by Muslims, even though they’re roughly five percent of your population.

But I was even more baffled when I read this in The New York Times:

Of 150 mosques or prayer rooms in Switzerland, only 4 have minarets, and only 2 more minarets are planned. None conduct the call to prayer. There are about 400,000 Muslims in a population of some 7.5 million people. Close to 90 percent of Muslims in Switzerland are from Kosovo and Turkey, and most do not adhere to the codes of dress and conduct associated with conservative Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, said Manon Schick, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Switzerland.

So you’re freaked out by four minarets across 40 thousand square kilometers of territory? Really? Are you that insecure? You do realize that that’s an average of one minaret per 10,000 square kilometers, right? (That’s like the size of Lebanon.) Further, apparently NONE of them do the call to prayer. You do know that, right?

Was propagandist crap like this really necessary?

Sadly, I guess it worked.

When I make classic Swiss fondue with a caquelon that I bought in Geneva a few years ago, I’ll give a thought to how I hope you’ll one day change your mind.

Bisous de la Californie,


July 15: Cyrus on PRI’s The World

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my radio piece on the rise of the Pirate Party in Europe (including France, Switzerland, and yes, Estonia) is airing today.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

NYC – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM –
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM –
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM –
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM –

You can also find it on The World’s site later in the day and on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my boss, Clark Boyd. It comes out every Friday.

Lemme know if you hear it!

Ahmadinejad on SNL & The Firefighters of Geneva

Two videos recently came across my radar:

Best line: “You can deny the Holocaust all you want, but you can’t deny that there’s something between us.”

[via Noah Breuer]

This is a public service announcement by the firefighters (sapeurs-pompiers) of Geneva. Apparently people still confuse the emergency fire number (118) for the old information number (111). They’ve been inundated with calls and figured that the best way to solve this problem was to make a rap video featuring rapping and dancing male and female firefighters.

Best line: “Hey man, t’as pas compris que qu’ici c’est pas une agence? Mais, une putain de centrale d’urgence.” (Hey man, didn’t you get that this isn’t a company? But a fucking emergency center!)

[via Jennie en France]

I’m coming home, and other news from Switzerland

In 12 hours, I’ll be on a train bound for Paris. In 16 hours, I’ll be on a plane bound for Chicago. In about 36 hours, I’ll be home in Oakland.

My trip to Geneva has been, like many of my other quick stops, has been productive, short, and yet just the right amount of time.

Luca picked me up from the airport, having taken time out of his vacation in Ticino to do so, and took me to his stunning apartment in the Old City. His wife and kids were still in Ticino, but some family friends (one of whom is staying temporarily while her place’s electricity is getting fixed) come over, and Luca and I found ourselves being the only men among five other women for dinner last night. It’s strange to think that he, out of all the people that I met when I lived here 10 years ago (10?!?), is the one that I’m still in touch with.

This morning I slept in a bit, and went to interview Alain Clerc at the Digital Solidarity Fund. I had to take two buses to get there, and almost got lost (I didn’t transfer in the right place), was worried that I would be late (a bigger deal in Switzerland than in most places), but it ended up being ok. After the interview, I grabbed a quick sandwich, and headed out for Nyon, my old scholastic stomping grounds.

From what I can tell, the city really hasn’t changed much in 10 years. The train station looks just as I remembered it, with its three tracks, one newsstand and assorted kids waiting for their trains home. The pub across the street is still there, as are the pharmacy, the eyeglasses store, and all the rest that I walked past every day on my way to school. I stopped in at a CD store that I used to go to and didn’t really find much that I wanted to buy, but it seemed that it was doing a healthy business. I then continued down the Rue de la Gare, the main drag in Nyon that connects the chateau with the station. The McDonald’s that opened up when I was here is still kicking, while the bank next door where I used to have a Swiss bank account at (not as glamorous as it sounds) is gone. The C&H department store (my free Internet lunchtime hangout) has turned into an H&M and the subterranean bookstore around the corner is gone. But the musical instruments shop, where I first inquired about local musical groups to play in still has an upright bass in the window. The snowboarding shop down the street where Martin used to go is still there, and was advertising its latest sale.

I headed back toward the main square and popped in at Manor, the local branch of a Swiss department store chain, where I bought “Tintin au pays des Soviets” and “Tintin au Congo”, the only two Tintin books that were never translated into English because the former was too politically sensitive, and the latter, too racist.

Then I swung over to La Combe, the big three story shopping mall that was our local hangout at school. This was where many kids would spend their lunch hour and/or break time. They’d slide over and buy cigarettes or magazines or candy or lunch. I went upstairs to have a sit-down lunch with a few of them during my first couple weeks at school, but later spent my lunch hours at C&H on their free Internet terminals and then would spend my afternoon breaks scarfing down a sandwich that I’d buy from Planet Sandwich, right next to the school. I’d go there so often, that as soon as they saw me come in, they started making it, as I ordered the same thing every time.

La Combe has changed a bit too, with a bookstore in the underground floor, and a new cafe in the middle. I went to the bookstore and bought Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis 3” (they come in 1-4 in the original language) and “Poulet aux prunes.”

I then walked outside, past the newsstand, through the door that opened up onto the patio of my old school, Ecole Moser. The patio was empty as kids were dutifully in class, n doubt with their typically European pencil bags anchoring the edge of their desks. (I never got one of my own, and I’m sure everyone thought I was weird for not having one.)

I walked around the building, not sure exactly what I was looking for, given that everyone that I knew had long gone, and then I left. I guess I just wanted to see if it still was as I remembered it, and indeed it was. Swiss education, is, I suppose, timeless.

On the train ride back, I came across this article in a local free newspaper, which read:

SUISSE ROMANDE – Un policier lausannois a dû sortir son arme samedi. Un fait rare à Genève et dans le canton de Vaud.

En vingt ans, la police cantonale vaudoise a en moyenne ouvert le feu quatre fois par année. A Genève, ce fut le cas trois fois en 2006 et quatre fois en 2005. L’arme à feu est la solution extrême. Dans les deux cantons, l’usage de bâtons tactiques, de spray au poivre ou de techniques de self-defense sont des solutions privilégiées.

Translation: “Francophone Switzerland – On Saturday, a Lausanne police officer had to take out his weapon. A rare act in Geneva (county) and Vaud (county).

In 20 years, the Vaud county police has, on average, opened fire four times per year. In Geneva, this was the case three times in 2006 and four times in 2005. A firearm is an extreme solution. In the two counties, the use of nightsticks, pepper spray or self-defense techniques are the preferred solutions”

Wow. I love this country. Also in the news today?

«J’enterre la vieille Suisse!»
(I’m burying old Switzerland!)

Stress invites Blocher [Swiss minister of justice, UDC party member] to one of his concerts! Such is the response of a Lausanne rapper who has raised a polemic with his song “But where”, in which he violently takes the UDC [a national conservative political party] to task. In his latest album, “Renaissance” (in stores Friday), Stress doesn’t let go: “And so the UDC is asking me for public apologies? Here you go, fascists: suck my dick!” And he didn’t stop there: in a scene in his music video, he mimes sodomizing Christoph Blocher! He would have needed even less to provoke a cry of protest. Evedently, the UDC reacted and Oskar Freysinger [high-ranking member of UDC] improvised a rap on national television last week. “His dick is too small to have been sucked.” But Stress isn’t pulling punches. On his previous album, he had a song called “Fuck Blocher”. Who is this guy from Lausanne? Just an agent provocateur?

The UDC really asked you for excuses after “Fuck Blocher”?
Yes, a young guy from the UDC made declarations in the press.

And your response was, “suck my dick”!
I’m not a politician! It’s a metaphor about what I think of the UDC’s policies. It would be naive to take this sentence literally.

This story is so weird, I’m really not sure where to start on this one, other than I wish I was here on Friday so I could buy the album when it comes out.