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Tag: Germany

New Year’s reading: Bowen’s Court

Friday, 5 January, 2018 0 Comments

We’re finishing our week of reading books that were the presents of this Christmas past. On Monday, we had The Best of A.A. Gill, a gift from Noel Donnelly, on Tuesday it was Five Escape Brexit Island, placed in the Rainy Day Xmas stocking by Ian McMaster, on Wednesday was the turn of Change Agent, given to this blogger by himself, and yesterday was Motherfoclóir, put under the tree in Clontarf by Brian. This series ends today with Bowen’s Court & Seven Winters by Elizabeth Bowen, a Christmas present from our valiant sister, Mary.

Bowen’s Court & Seven Winters is the history of one Anglo-Irish family in north County Cork, from the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1653 until 1959, when Elizabeth Bowen, the last of the family, was forced to sell the house she adored. With the skill that marks all her writing, she describes the lives and loves, the highs and lows of ten generations of Bowens. These were a class apart — the Protestant Irish gentry — and theirs was a story of war, land, powerful women, ruinous lawsuits, horses, hunting, entertaining, sex, drinking, melancholy and loss.

The date is 5 August 1914 and the Bowens have set out from their estate by pony and trap for a party at Mitchelstown Castle, the home of the Earls of Kingston. They stopped at the village of Rockmills to collect Silver Oliver, a playmate of the 15-year-old Elizabeth, and they could not have anticipated that an event in far-off Sarajevo would start a conflagration that would inspire Irish men to burn Mitchelstown Castle to the ground on 12 August 1922. Snippet:

At Rockmills my father — whose manner, I do remember had been growing graver with every minute — stopped the pony and went into the post office. There was a minute to wait, with the pony stamping, before I again saw him framed in the low dark door. He cleared his throat and said: “England has declared war on Germany.” Getting back into the trap, he added: “I suppose it could not be helped.” All I could say was: “Then can’t we go to the garden party?” … We picked up Silver Oliver and drove to Mitchelstown — Henry, with his whole mind, courteously answering a rattle of questions from us girls. If at ten or twelve I had been precocious, at fifteen I was virtually idiotic. The bye-roads had dried in the wind and were glaring white; the War already had given them an unreal look.

That afternoon we walked up the Castle avenue, greeted by the gusty sound of a band. The hosts of the party were the late Lady Kingston’s second husband, Mr. Willie Webber, and his companion, Miss Minnie Fairholme. They were not young, and, owing to the extreme draughtiness everywhere, they received their guests indoors, at the far end of Big George’s gallery. In virtue of this being a garden party, and of the fact that it was not actually raining, pressure was put on the guests to proceed outside — people only covertly made incursions into the chain of brocade saloons. Wind raced round the Castle terraces, naked under the Galtees; grit blew into the ices; the band clung, with some trouble, to its exposed place. The tremendous news certainly made that party, which might have been rather flat. Almost everyone said they wondered if they really ought to have come, but they had come — rightly: this was a time to gather. This was an assemblage of Anglo-Irish people from all over north-east County Cork, from the counties of Limerick, Waterford, Tipperary. For miles around, each isolated big house had disgorged its talker, this first day of the war. The tension of months, of years — outlying tension of Europe, inner tension of Ireland — broke in a spate of words. Braced against the gale of the mountains, licking dust from their lips, these were the unmartialled loyalists of the South. Not a family had not put out, like Bowen’s Court, its generations of military brothers — tablets in Protestant churches recorded deaths in remote battles; swords hung in halls. If the Anglo-Irish live on and for a myth, for that myth they constantly shed their blood. So, on this August 1914 day of grandeur and gravity, the Ascendency rallied, renewed itself.

It was an afternoon when the simplest person begins to anticipate memory — this Mitchelstown garden party, it was agreed, would remain in everyone’s memory as historic. It was also a more final scene than we knew. Ten years hence, it was all to seem like a dream — and the Castle itself would be a few bleached stumps on the plateau. Today, the terraces are obliterated, and grass grows where the saloons were. Many of those guests, those vehement talkers, would be scattered, houseless, sonless, or themselves dead. That war — or call it now that first phase of war — was to go far before it had done with us.

Elizabeth Bowen


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.


The 11 th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Saturday, 11 November, 2017 0 Comments

It’s Armistice Day. The event is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the truce signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne in France for the cessation of hostilities. The agreement took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning — the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. More than nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of the First World War.

Lieutenant Robert Martin O'Dwyer Today, we remember the World War I dead of Ballylanders, Co. Limerick: Sergeant John Brazil, Lieutenant Robert Martyn O’Dwyer and his brother Rifleman Peter O’Dwyer. Their bodies were interred in places as far apart as Pas de Calais in France and the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. May they rest in peace.

“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.” — Czesław Miłosz


TerraE borrows Gigafactory from Tesla

Friday, 4 August, 2017 0 Comments

Fact: The car industry provides jobs for 828,000 people in Germany. This accounts for a hefty 14 percent of the country’s manufacturing industry workforce.

There’s no way Berlin will allow #Dieselgate to sink the ship, but there is an increasing awareness that things have to change if they are to remain the same, for the auto industry, that is. As usual, the future is on the other side of the Atlantic and it has a name: Gigafactory.

The Tesla Gigafactory is a lithium-ion battery production facility in Nevada and its full capacity would enable the company to produce the power packs for 1,500,000 e-cars a year. In a subtle change of terminology, Tesla now refers to what was called the Gigafactory as Gigafactory 1 and Elon Musk has taken to describing the SolarCity Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York, as Gigafactory 2. Next up is Tesla Gigafactory Europe, a combined electric battery manufacturing facility and automobile factory. Locations said to be under consideration are in the Czech Republic around Prague, with a nearby 330 kilotonne lithium deposit, and Portugal, with Europe’s biggest lithium reserves and one of the world’s biggest solar centres.

With Tesla knocking on Europe’s door, German car makers need to get a move on. Enter Terra E. The Frankfurt-based holding company announced yesterday that it has “composed 17 major companies and research institutions to a consortium to handle planning for building large-scale lithium ion battery cell manufacturing in Germany.” In a cheeky act of imitation, it’s calling the proposed facility a “Gigafactory”. What did Picasso allegedly say about great artists and copying?

Terra E will choose one of five candidate sites next month to build the 34 gigawatt-hour battery factory. The plan is to break ground in the fourth quarter of 2019 and reach full capacity in 2028.

So, despite the current crisis, the German car industry is gearing up for the next stage in the mobility upheaval. Millions of plug-in cars are expected to roll off production lines in Munich and Stuttgart early next decade and Berlin believes it has an ace up its sleeve in the race to dominate the roads: Industrie 4.0. The national strategy for the Fourth Industrial revolution could give Germany an edge in manufacturing robotics and automated production. If that were to happen, #Dieselgate would be remembered, if at all, as just one more word with a hashtag and a popular suffix.

Picasso car and bird


But, but, but… batteries

Tuesday, 1 August, 2017 0 Comments

Norway has put down a marker. It will phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2025. France is giving the industry a bit more leeway, but it will ban the sale of combustion engines from 2040. In the same year, Britain will forbid new petrol and diesel cars.

EV So, what sort of vehicles will people use when combustion engines are outlawed? EVs (electric vehicles), of course. Whoa! Not so fast, say the combustion-engine defenders. They claim that the ecological footprint of e-cars is calamitous. One can drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee or a Mercedes SUV-class for years before doing as much damage to the environment as a Tesla, they claim. How come? Four years ago, in an exhaustive 6,500-word article on the financial website Seeking Alpha, analyst Nathan Weiss made a case that the Tesla Model S has higher effective emissions than most large SUVs of both the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and smog-producing pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

And then there’s the super-heavy batteries used in electric vehicles.

If the environmental argument doesn’t do it for you, the car industry, of all industries, will try ethics. The ethics of batteries, that is. The battery business uses 42 percent of global cobalt production, after all. And where does cobalt come from? Why, the Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation torn by civil war and hobbled by corruption. And if that’s not an argument against cobalt, get this: the ore is often dug out by child labourers. Rounding out the debate are the poisons and dangerous particles released as a side effect of batteries, which have to be disposed of. Toxic waste, in other words.

The problem with the argument for the internal combustion engine is that it doesn’t allow for momentum and innovation. Today’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast:

“The EV revolution is going to hit the car market even harder and faster than BNEF predicted a year ago. EVs are on track to accelerate to 54% of new car sales by 2040. Tumbling battery prices mean that EVs will have lower lifetime costs, and will be cheaper to buy, than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in most countries by 2025-29.”

Thursday, here: The results of tomorrow’s Diesel Summit in Berlin.


Dieselgate

Monday, 31 July, 2017 0 Comments

Naturally, there’s a Wikipedia page listing scandals with the “-gate” suffix. Heard of Porngate? “Three members of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in India resign from their offices after accusations that they watched porn during government proceedings.” And what about Valijagate? “Venezuelan-American entrepreneur Guido Antonini Wilson arrived in Argentina on a private flight hired by Argentine and Venezuelan state officials carrying US$800,000 in cash, which he failed to declare.”

Then there’s Dieselgate (or Emissionsgate):

“International Council on Clean Transportation and West Virginia University caught Volkwagen cheating on emissions tests on about 11 million diesel cars by programming them to enable emissions controls during testing, but not control NOx pollution during real world driving.”

The suffix has spread so widely in two years that no one raised an eyebrow last week when Xinhua, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China, headlined a story: “Strong Volkswagen Q2 profit despite ‘dieselgate’ cartel scandals.” Along with “dieselgate”, you will have noticed the word “cartel” there. Until recently, that term was more associated with Colombia than Germany. The Cali Cartel once controlled more than 90 percent of the world’s cocaine market. Its founders were the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, Gilberto and Miguel, who broke away from Pablo Escobar and his partners, who ran the Medellín Cartel. When the car manufacturers in Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Munich are being seen as shady operators running a racket designed to harm society along Colombian lines one begins to grasp how low their stars have fallen.

Tomorrow: The real enemy is Tesla, says the cartel.

Narcos


Gin of the week: Friedrichs

Wednesday, 19 July, 2017 0 Comments

Shouldn’t that be “Friedrich’s”? Asks the punctuation pedant. Actually, no. You see, Friedrichs Dry Gin is German and the German language doesn’t do the possessive form as English does by suffixing a morpheme, represented orthographically as ‘s.

Geographically, Friedrichs comes from Steinhagen, which is located on the southern slope of the legendary Teutoburg Forest, and the town is famous for its Steinhäger, a Schnapps flavoured with juniper berries and traditionally sold in long brown earthenware bottles. Given the current popularity of gin, it’s not surprising that the distillers of Steinhagen put 2 + 2 together and came up with Friedrichs Dry Gin, and the bottle design they picked is meant to reflect the tradition of the old earthenware ones. Obviously, optics are just as important as orthography on a crowded spirits shelf.

And the gin itself? On the nose, juniper takes a background positon, surprisingly, given the Steinhagen juniper history. The more prominent botanicals include orange blossoms, coriander, angelica, rosemary and a hint of the laraha citrus fruit, which is grown on the island of Curaçao. In other words, Friedrichs is floral and herbal. On the palate, the taste is herbaceous and earthy and green. Taken straight on ice, the orange aroma fades and the juniper comes to the fore. This is a intricate gin and a welcome addition to the family.

Friedrichs Dry Gin


The smug face of Left-wing nihilism

Saturday, 8 July, 2017 1 Comment

The thug here caught snapping a selfie during last night’s so-called “anti-capitalism” riot in Hamburg is using an iPhone 7 Plus, which costs a cool €899. Priceless!

Hamburg thug

Described by the liberal press as “activists”, these spoiled brats and ruffians spent the night looting shops run by hard-working locals, immigrants and families who are trying to make decent living. What is truly appalling, however, is that the gangsters were encouraged by the likes of the leftist (!) millionaire (!) German publisher Jakob Augstein who, on Thursday night, tweeted: “The price has to be pushed so high that no one will want to organize such a conference. G20 like the Olympics is for dictatorships”

The looting, the burning, the injured police officers are a high price to pay for the satisfaction of well-fed smoked-salmon socialists.


Trump in Poland: The Three Seas vs. Nord Stream 2

Thursday, 6 July, 2017 0 Comments

The election of President Donald Trump was an existential shock for Poland’s liberal elites. And, like their pals the world over, they remain in grief and denial, unwilling and unable to comprehend what has happened to their certainties. That said, Poland’s conservative government didn’t appear thrilled by the change in Washington, either. Trump’s reputed admiration for Putin suggested that an emboldened Moscow would have a free hand to increase its intimidation of Warsaw, but the increasingly frosty climate between America and Russia has put that nightmare to rest. And that’s why President’s Trump speech today in Warsaw is so important, and it explains why Poland is greeting the US President as a hero. When the speech ends and Air Force One flies off to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, however, the success or failure of the visit will depend on President Trump’s position regarding the competing visions represented by the Three Seas initiative and the Nord Stream 2 project.

Poland

The Three Seas Initiative: This aims to unite twelve countries in Central and Eastern Europe by creating a North-South infrastructure, between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas, in the telecommunications, transportation and energy sectors. The main goal is challenge Russian influence in the European energy sector, and prevent Moscow from using energy as a weapon against neighbouring states.

Nord Stream 2: This is a second pipeline being built by Russian energy giant Gazprom and Germany’s BASF and E.ON energy companies. It will run in parallel to the first Nord Stream pipeline, which was completed in 2011, and it will carry gas under the Baltic Sea directly from Russia to Germany. Adjoining states regard this as a move by Russia to bypass traditional transit countries (Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Belarus and Poland) and see it as part of a long-term plan by the Kremlin to exert political influence over them by threatening their gas supply without affecting supplies to Western Europe.

As one can see, some of Europe’s oldest fault lines are exposed here. By calling their project the Tree Seas Initiative, the founders have revived memories of the Intermarium — a Polish-led bloc in Central and Eastern Europe as a bulwark between Germany and Russia. Some also regard it as a challenge to the EU and an act of potential separatism. Anything the US says and does, therefore, will be seen as hostile by some in Berlin and Brussels but all those who have been crying “Isolationism” since last November might admit that keeping this US administration interested in the affairs of Central and Eastern Europe is of value.

But, but, but… Last month’s vote by the US Senate to expand sanctions on Russia has rocked the boat. Part of that expansion will target European countries that cooperate with Moscow’s efforts to build out its energy infrastructure in Europe and the most prominent target is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The proposed sanctions would affect those who “…invest or support the construction of Russian energy export pipelines.” The Wall Street Journal has the details.

Europe and America. Russia and Poland. Oil and gas. It’s complicated.


In the year of his first cigarette

Saturday, 24 June, 2017 0 Comments

In the year that the great Galty smoked his first cigarette, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, premiered in Hollywood; Francisco Franco assumed power in Spain; Flann O’Brien’s metafiction At Swim-Two-Birds was published in London; Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt married Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran; Billie Holiday recorded Strange Fruit; Italy seized Albania and King Zog fled; an Irish Republican Army bomb exploded in the centre of Coventry, killing five people; John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath was published; Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics No. 27; nylon stockings went on sale in Wilmington, Delaware, and LaGuardia Airport opened in New York City.

Oh, and the opening shots of World War II were fired when Germany invaded Poland.

Galty