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The sixth post of pre-Christmas 2018: June

Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Football didn’t quite “come home” after this year’s World Cup but England did reach the semi-finals and lost, valiantly, to Croatia, who were beaten in the final by a superior French side. Our review of the year has reached the month of June.

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Back in June 2015, the former German Federal Minister for Finance Wolfgang Schäuble lost patience with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “Isch over,” he said. The context were the interminable talks about talks about talks to keep Athens funded and within the Eurozone.

Three years later, somethings have changed and more remain the same: “Tsipras Vows to Stick With Greece’s Euro Deal” is today’s Bloomberg headline. One thing has changed dramatically since 2015, however. Germany has lost its nimbus as a football power. Yesterday’s humiliating defeat by South Korea and the terrible performances against Mexico and Sweden mean “Isch over.” Over and out of the World Cup.

Apropos, in the Guardian, the former German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger says, “This was not the Germany we are used to – I feel completely empty.” He also places a finger in a fatal self-inflicted wound by team manager Joachim Löw:

“I’m aware there has been a lot of talk in England about Leroy Sané’s exclusion from the squad following his excellent season with Manchester City and, for me, he is a player who should be reintroduced immediately. He is exactly the calibre of player Germany needs, someone who is young and has raw, dangerous pace.”

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Since June, Löw has sobered up and Sané is now a regular fixture in the German team, where his ability and agility are beginning to add sparkle. Tomorrow, here, the seventh post of pre-Christmas 2018 dwells upon the new Empire of Evil: China.


Merkelism II: aka AKK

Friday, 7 December, 2018

Dreadful decision by the CDU. Replacing Angela Merkel with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is a vote for dullness, tedium and monotony, but with a name that’s more difficult to pronounce. On the other hand, it’s a triumph of the art of cloning, just like Zalando is an unexceptional German clone of Amazon. Zalando doesn’t offer as much variety as the original, but it keeps the home crowd happy.


Merkelism grounded. A metaphor is needed

Friday, 30 November, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will miss the opening of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires today after her Airbus A340 plane made an unscheduled landing in Cologne last night when it developed technical problems. The German government aircraft plane turned back while it was over the Netherlands and Mrs Merkel will now travel on to Buenos Aires today via Madrid in the company of the huddled masses. Well, Business Class, of course, but still it’s a bit of a come down.

By the way, the very same plane was grounded in Indonesia in October after rodents gnawed through its electrical cables during a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. It would be insensitive at this point to make a joke about rats boarding a sinking ship instead of leaving it, so we’ll leave that to others, but these aircraft incidents offer rich pickings for those seeking metaphors. Merkel’s ebbing chancellorship is the obvious one, but there’s Airbus itself. President Emmanuel Macron’s recent plea for an EU army was welcomed by most factions in Berlin, and Franco-German co-operation on the development and production of Airbus aircraft was cited as example of what can be done when the neighbours agree to bury their bloodied old hatchets. The elation didn’t last long, however, because reality, in the shape of Putin, has given the fantasy army a nasty knock on the head. Despite all the lauded EU mediation over the years, Russia continues to violate Ukrainian sovereignty by waging a brutal, slow-motion war in eastern Ukraine, and Moscow’s thugs took the aggression to the sea at the weekend when they upped their harassment of Ukrainian ships transiting the Kerch Strait.

In response, Merkel and Macron made the usual bleating noises, of course, but boots on the ground in the Donbass region and Ukrainian sailors being paraded before a Crimean kangaroo court show that in the world’s wilder places the belief that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, as the Chinese mass murderer Mao Zedong once said, continues to rule the airwaves.

Maybe it’s best to stick with George Orwell’s dictum: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”


The beginning of the end of Merkelism

Tuesday, 30 October, 2018

Prediction: Angela Merkel won’t be Chancellor of Germany this time next year and the shambolic coalition government she leads will be history. And how will history regard Angela Merkel? Very critically, very harshly, in fact. Her decision in 2015 to demand that Germany and, by default, its neighbours, absorb a vast migration on an unprecedented scale of cultural difference was based on the illusion that Germany’s past sins could be forgiven with a reckless modern humanitarianism. The damage done has been immense. Germany is polarized as never before in its post-War phase and brittle members of the European Union, such as Italy and Poland, are riven by divisions that they claim have been sharpened by Merkelism.

But the Merkel miasma was not confined to Germany. Shortly after 9 November 2016 and the election of Donald Trump as US President, the deranged elites crowned her “Leader of the Free World”. Not content with naming her “Chancellor of the Free World” earlier, they upped the ante and beclowned themselves even further. Still, an upside of the Merkel era will be the introduction of urgently-needed term limits in Germany. Two terms should be the maximum. The 12 years of Merkelism were much too much.

Merkelism


Aristides the Just in Bavaria

Saturday, 13 October, 2018

Bavaria is booming. Unemployment is under three percent and the sun has shone almost every day since April. Easy peasy then, you would think, for the CSU, which has ruled the southern German state with an absolute majority for most of the post-war era. The party won nearly 48 percent of the vote at the last regional election, in 2013, but change is in the air. For the first time in living memory, the CSU appears almost certain to fall well below the 40 percent mark in tomorrow’s election, an outcome that would send shockwaves all the way from Munich to Berlin.

What’s up? Frustration with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s moralistic migration policy is one issue; infighting within the CSU and in the coalition government in Berlin is another. People are looking for alternatives. Despite the extraordinary prosperity and stability that the CSU has helped bestow upon Bavaria, the voters are restless. The situation reminds one of an incident recounted by Plutarch in The Life of Aristides the Just. Note: An ostracon (plural ostraka) was a shard of pottery upon which the ancient Greeks wrote short messages:

“Now at the time of which I was speaking, as the voters were inscribing their ostraka [to determine which politicians would be expelled from the city], it is said that an unlettered and utterly boorish ostrakon fellow handed his ostrakon to Aristides, whom he took to be one of the ordinary crowd, and asked him to write Aristides on it. He, astonished, asked the man what possible wrong Aristides had done him. ‘None whatever,’ was the answer, ‘I don’t even know the fellow, but I am tired of hearing him everywhere called ‘The Just’. On hearing this, Aristides made no answer, but wrote his name on the ostracon and handed it back.”

In the most recent polls, CSU support has fallen to 33 percent. In much of Europe today, that would be a dream result for a centrist party, but given the CSU’s almost permanent reign, such an outcome would be treated as a disaster. Stay tuned.


A German writes about Germany and Trump

Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

Jochen Bittner, a political editor with the German weekly Die Zeit, addresses the enormous hypocrisy of Europe and, especially Germany, in a New York Times op-ed titled What Trump Gets Right About Europe. Snippet:

“Mr. Trump’s anger at America’s allies embodies, however unpleasantly, a not unreasonable point of view, and one that the rest of the world ignores at its peril: The global world order is unbalanced and inequitable. And unless something is done to correct it soon, it will collapse, with or without the president’s tweets.

While the West happily built the liberal order over the past 70 years, with Europe at its center, the Americans had the continent’s back. In turn, as it unravels, America feels this loss of balance the hardest — it has always spent the most money and manpower to keep the system working.

The Europeans have basically been free riders on the voyage, spending almost nothing on defense, and instead building vast social welfare systems at home and robust, well-protected export industries abroad. Rather than lash back at Mr. Trump, they would do better to ask how we got to this place, and how to get out.

The European Union, as an institution, is one of the prime drivers of this inequity. At the Group of 7, for example, the constituent countries are described as all equals. But in reality, the union puts a thumb on the scales in its members’ favor: It is a highly integrated, well-protected free-trade area that gives a huge leg up to, say, German car manufacturers while essentially punishing American companies who want to trade in the region.

The eurozone offers a similar unfair advantage. If it were not for the euro, Germany would long ago have had to appreciate its currency in line with its enormous export surplus.”

What sort of lives do people/nations, who pose as being moral, lead? Jochen Bittner has posed the question and answered it, too.

Language note: The word “hypocrite” came to English from the Greek hypokrites, which means “actor” or “stage player.” Hypokrites is made up of two words that translate as “an interpreter from underneath,” and that makes sense when you know that actors in ancient Greece wore masks to represent the characters they were playing, and so they interpreted the story from underneath their masks.

Hypokrites took on an expanded meaning to refer to anyone wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone they were not, and this meaning was imported into medieval French and then into English, where it appeared with the spelling, ypocrite, in 13th-century religious texts to refer to those who pretend to be pious to deceive others. By the 16th century, hypocrite had gained its initial h-.


Murderous Marx @ 200

Saturday, 5 May, 2018 0 Comments

They’ll be celebrating the 200th birthday of Karl Marx in his hometown of Trier today and, no doubt, many fancy speeches will be made praising his “relevance” to our 21st century. Naturally, the enormity of the crimes committed in his name will be ignored and the millions of Marxism’s victims will not get a mention. A classic example of this dishonesty was provided earlier this week by the New York Times, which published “Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!” by Jason Barker, an associate professor of philosophy at Kyung Hee University in South Korea and author of Marx Returns. Snippet: “The idea of the classless and stateless society would come to define both Marx’s and Engels’s idea of communism, and of course the subsequent and troubled history of the Communist ‘states’ (ironically enough!) that materialized during the 20th century.”

Note there the use of “troubled”. No one would ever say that genocidal fascist dogma had a “troubled” history, but ideologues like Barker get away with praising Marxism as a virtuous philosophy, detached from the nightmares of the GULAG and Pol Pot’s killing fields. In his summary of the estimates in The Black Book of Communism, Martin Malia suggested a death toll of between 85 and 100 million people, and all this murder and suffering was done in the name of Marx’s theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, violence as the midwife of history and individual rights as a bourgeois crime.

The most surreal defence of this evil was served up yesterday in a Reuters article titled “No regrets: Xi says Marxism still ‘totally correct’ for China.” It’s totally fitting that the autocratic leader of a country where a ruling class ruthlessly exploits the masses and where no labour movement is allowed legitimizes his hegemony with Marx.

Karl Marx belongs in the rubbish bin of history. Our thoughts today should be with the innocents murdered in his name.

Marx and his pupils


Merkelism 4.0: Stasis

Monday, 5 March, 2018 0 Comments

Keine Experimente (No experiments) was the promise made in 1957 by Konrad Adenauer, a founding father of postwar Germany. That was the year his CDU party won more than 50 percent of the national vote, which turned out to be its best ever result. Sixty years later, Keine Experimente is the preferred way of doing things in Germany and the new GroKo (Grand Coalition) government will be every bit as dreary as Adenauer could have hoped for. There will be no experiments because if there were, the coalition parties, the CDU the SPD and the CSU, would have too much to lose. Last September, these “partners” achieved their worst electoral results since the 1950s and that’s why Angela Merkel’s fourth term as Chancellor will be a time of cheerless stasis.

Writing in The Spectator, Fredrik Erixon is unsparing of the perennial Chancellor. Snippet: “Merkel has been Germany’s dominant political figure for a dozen years. It is her policy — and her style of leadership — that has paralysed the country’s politics and threatens to see the far-right become the main opposition. For those who are angry with the German power establishment, there is only one person to blame.”

The Spectator


The unmasking of the overrated Martin Selmayr

Friday, 29 December, 2017 0 Comments

This is deft and devastating: “The Selmayrs are by origin Bavarians, who have always seen themselves as European rather than Germans — except during the Third Reich.” That pause there is masterful and it’s the work of Daniel Johnson in the current issue of Standpoint magazine.

Martin Selmayr is the latest scion of this ancient family to make news and he bears the capital title of “HEAD OF CABINET” in what the Brussels bubble calls “President Juncker’s team“. The admiration of the young bureaucrat ends at the English Channel, however. Selmayr has few friends in London as he is “blamed for a series of malicious leaks during the Brexit negotiations, ranging from unflattering remarks about Theresa May’s appearance to preparatiosn for the fall of her government,” notes Daniel Johnson, who sees him as a combination of “gatekeeper, enforcer and eminence grise in a manner reminiscent of the Merovingian emperors of the Dark Ages, who were ruled by the mayors of the palace.”

For Johnson, much of what makes the junior Selmayr what he has is and what he has become can be found in the ‘journey’ of Josef Selmayr, a truly opportunistic, amoral piece of work. Snippet:

“Martin’s grandfather Josef was a professional soldier during the Weimar Republic and later rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Wehrmacht. He was imprisoned for war crimes in the Balkans, but only briefly. Josef Selmayr’s experience made him useful in the Cold War and led to his rehabilitation: first as a member of the shadowy Gehlen Organisation, a CIA-funded group of former Nazi intelligence officers, then from 1955 to 1964 as the first director of MAD, the German Military Counterintelligence Service, with the rank of Brigadier. His career paralleled that of Kurt Waldheim, whose role in war crimes in the Balkans did not prevent him later becoming UN Secretary General and Austrian President.”

Daniel Johnson points out that the Selmayrs are a family of public servants in an long-standing German tradition of an elite offering its skills for the development of an idealised sate. “Fatally, they conflated the Nazi state with the rule of law.” To make amends for this blot on the copybook, as it were, Martin Selmayr “has always seen Europe as a source of redemption from Hitler’s toxic legacy.”

For these people, Britain was, and Brexit now is, the nemesis. It threatens their vision of Utopia and no amount of Utopian Europe, with its killing fields, bloodlands and mass barbarism, can deter them. The Project must be completed.

Martin Selmayr


Haiku for a drowned oBike

Tuesday, 5 December, 2017 0 Comments

The oBike company from Singapore is not feeling the spirit of Christmas in Europe this Advent. Is it playing fast and loose with users’ data? Some allege that it is. Is it creating an urban blight of cheap bicycles? The evidence is mounting. In some cities, citizens are taking matters into their own hands by damaging or discarding the bikes. The semi-submerged example in our photo was seen in Munich’s Olympiapark.

oBike rage rising
Olympian grave beckons
Splash! Stillness surrounds.

oBike

Note: The haiku follows a strict form: three lines, with a 5-7-5 syllable structure. That means the first line must have five syllables, the second line seven syllables and the last line must have five syllables. A haiku does not have to rhyme or follow a certain rhythm as long as it adheres to the 17-syllable count.


Here today: Stuttgart

Saturday, 14 October, 2017 0 Comments

The name Stuttgart dates from a time when the site of what would become the city was a place for breeding cavalry horses (“stud yard”). Hence the equine logo of the city. And that same prancing horse graces the Porsche logo. That’s because Porsche’s headquarters are in Stuttgart, along with those of Mercedes Benz, Bosch and Mahle plus lots of other companies, large and small, that keep the “Motor City” humming.

“Stuttgart from Above” was created by videographer Mario Hegewald. The music is Neon Light by Thomas McNeice and Robin Thomson.