Tag: Cologne

Angela’s ashes: The decline of Merkelism

Monday, 14 March, 2016 0 Comments

On Friday, Japan paid tribute to the 16,000 people who died in the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck off the Pacific coast in 2011. It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded to have hit the country and the ensuing tsunami permanently damaged three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Chancellor Angela Merkel, 8,900 km away in Berlin, decided that Germany would end nuclear energy production, even though nuclear provides 16 percent of its energy and is still its largest low-carbon energy source by far. The result is that Germany’s electricity costs are now among the highest in the world, and its electricity production is still primarily from coal (45 percent). Wind, biomass, solar, natural gas and hydro comprise the remaining 40 percent, in that order.

Mrs Merkel’s unilateral resolve to end nuclear energy production was typical of her increasingly absolute ruling style and this tendency reached its high-water mark last year with her unilateral decision to open Germany’s borders, which has resulted in over 1.1 million migrants and refugees entering the country in the past eight months. The euphoric welcome given to many of the arrivals last summer at Munich’s main train station has been replaced by seething rage, especially since the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne, where hundreds of women were sexually harassed and assaulted by men of largely north African and Arabic background.

The bill was presented yesterday when the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party made dramatic electoral gains, entering state parliament for the first time in three regions off the back of rising anger with Merkel’s open-door migration policy. The AfD was founded in 2013 by a group of economists and journalists calling for the abolition of the euro; now it’s a platform for a public that has become increasingly polarised by an establishment that’s seen as out of touch with the people. Angela Merkel’s popular decline is proof of the wisdom of term limits. Germany should consider enacting them.


Michel Houellebecq reads in Cologne

Monday, 19 January, 2015 0 Comments

Topping the bestseller list at Amazon.fr is Soumission by Michel Houellebecq. Is his vision of a supine French “submission” to a gradual Islamic takeover a farce or a warning? Tonight, in Cologne, people will have a chance to make up their own minds when the controversial author makes one of his rare trips abroad to speak about his work. Unsurprisingly, the Lit Cologne event is sold out.

Soumission is set seven years in the future, in the year 2022. Mohammed Ben Abbes becomes president of France and immediately all women must be veiled in public, state secondary schools adopt an Islamic curriculum, and the protagonist, François, is told that he cannot return to his university job unless he converts to Islam. He happily submits to the new order, not for any religious or philosophical reasons, but because the new Saudi owners of the Sorbonne pay far better — and he can be polygamous. As he notes, in envy of his new boss, who has converted already: “One 40-year-old wife for cooking, one 15-year-old wife for other things… no doubt he had one or two others of intermediate ages.”

For those who are not fortunate enough to have a ticket to see Michel Houellebecq in action tonight, this Paris Review Q&A, “Scare Tactics: Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Book,” is essential reading. Snippet:

Have you asked yourself what the effect might be of a novel based on such a hypothesis?

None. No effect whatsoever.

You don’t think it will help reinforce the image of France that I just described, in which Islam hangs overhead like the sword of Damocles, like the most frightening thing of all?

In any case, that’s pretty much all the media talks about, they couldn’t talk about it more. It would be impossible to talk about it more than they already do, so my book won’t have any effect.

Doesn’t it make you want to write about something else so as not to join the pack?

No, part of my work is to talk about what everyone is talking about, objectively. I belong to my own time.

Soumission by Michel Houellebecq

Germany: Home of the world’s worst TV

Wednesday, 2 October, 2013 0 Comments

No, this is not a post about the high-end TV maker Loewe AG, which filed for insolvency yesterday. Its dilemma was that it failed to keep up with innovative rivals such as Samsung and LG Electronics, and could not cope with the drop in the average price of TVs. The problem is not with the German TV; it’s with German television, which churns out endless hours of unwatchable bilge at enormous cost to the taxpayer. What these costs involve was revealed last month by Bild when it published figures associated with the pension entitlements of Monika Piel (62), who spent 36 years at WDR, the largest branch of ARD, the German association of public broadcasters. Bild reported that €3.18 million had been set aside for the departing bureaucrat’s retirement and that this would amount to monthly pension payments of up to €14,500.

Tonight in Cologne, the makers of the world’s most unwatchable television will meet to award each other the German Television Prize. The insolvency of Loewe is an evil omen for the event, but that won’t trouble the talentless, tasteless cadre in charge of producing 24/7 trash TV as much as two words from across the Atlantic: Breaking Bad. The US series has generated huge interest in Germany and those watching it are asking awkward questions: Who is responsible for the awful domestic output? What is all the money being spent on? Why can’t we do something like Mad Men? Where is our House of Cards? When will this billion-euro budgeted TV industry create something original?

While people wait for the answers, they should take a look at this opening scene from The Newsroom. Given an infinite amount of time, the infinite apparatchiks typing at ARD, ZDF and RTL would never create a minute of this kind of dialogue, and the unimaginative producers at ARTE or Sat.1 would never in their lifetimes deliver the collage of shots, lighting, angles and social critique we see here. This is as about as un-German as television can be.

Ten years ago today on Rainy Day

Tuesday, 25 September, 2012

Originally posted on 25 September 2002: Lit a candle last night in one of Europe’s most majestic cathedrals and said a prayer for Mick Upton, my father’s first cousin, who gazed in wonder at the same building 57 years ago, but under dramatically different circumstances. Back then, he was a solider in the 1st US […]

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