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Tag: Germany

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.


The fifth post of pre-Christmas 2018: May

Monday, 17 December, 2018

Our review of the year has reached that month the Romans called Maius in honour of the Greek Goddess Maia, who was associated with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea. Anyway, the day dawned bright on 26 May, but by the time the three alpinisti, as they say in Italy, had reached the peak, it was shrouded in a fog that was both numinous and perilous. Still, we lived to tell the tale.

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The translation of the Gaelic Seán Sa Cheo means “John in the Fog” and it’s the title of a famous reel. The John here is John O’Rourke and, along with Tom Breen, he summited Galtymore today. Despite the fog, the hikers returned safely to base.

Seán Sa Cheo

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Tomorrow, here, the sixth post of pre-Christmas 2018 is from June and it’s all about the consequences of Joachim Löw’s fateful decision to exclude Leroy Sané from the German World Cup squad.


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.


When Erich Honecker visited Las Vegas

Monday, 19 November, 2018

He didn’t, of course, but the contemporary Chinese historian Qin Hui asks us to imagine what might have happened if the East German tyrant had taken a tour of the Strip and kicked back in the penthouse suite at the Bellagio before playing the slots. Unlike the wily Communist Deng Xiaoping, who led China through far-reaching market-economy reforms, Erich Honecker was as thick as a brick so his wretched regime collapsed in 1989 and was consigned to the dustbin of history. Here’s Qin Hui:

“Imagine that twenty years ago, East Germany had suppressed democratization and kept the Berlin Wall. East Germans had no freedom, low-wages, and low human rights, and there was no policy of on-par conversion of East and West German marks. What if Honecker toured the West, visiting Las Vegas and the Moulin Rouge, discovering that the developed world was great, after which he developed a great interest in market economies, and decided to abandon utopia to make money. He left the politics the same, but changed the economy to be part of West Germany’s. He opened the doors wide to Western capital, demanding in return that the West keep the doors open to accept East German products. He would use authoritarian means to provide the best investment opportunities: whatever piece of land you decide you need he would get it for you; workers had to toe the line and could not protest; if people’s homes were in the way of a business deal he would get rid of them; he could decide on allotment of rights to enterprises, there would be no need to deal with anyone, labor unions and agriculture unions were not allowed, he would reward anyone who came to invest and get rid of anyone who got in the way of investment…What do you think would have happened had that come to pass?

The answer is simple. If the state had insisted, the East German people would have stood for it, and the results might have been completely different from what they are now. Western capital would no longer head for China, or Romania, and West Germany wouldn’t be employing Turkish workers. They would have swarmed into East Germany, and sweatshops would have sprung up all over East Germany, which would have poured tons of cheap commodities onto the Western markets, completely renewing East Germany’s original industries… East Germany would immediately have had an economic miracle, and the ‘deindustrialization’ and high unemployment rates would have appeared in West Germany. With the flight of capital from West Germany, labor would have lost its bargaining power, unions would have declined, welfare would have diminished, and the people’s capitalism, built over more than a century, the ‘social market economy’ and its welfare state, would no longer exist. Of course, East Germany would experience serious social problems, such as inequality, alliances between the state and merchants, rampant corruption, environmental pollution, etc. But if the East Germans could withstand all of this, then what would have happened to West Germany?”

The answer to that final question can be found in “Dilemmas of Twenty-First Century Globalization” at the excellent Reading the China Dream blog.

Between the lines of Qin Hui’s piece is a warning about the clear and present danger posed by China, which pretends to be socialist, but is bent on destroying post-war Western prosperity through the cruel exploitation of its own people. This is the context in which one should read the far-too-favourable New York Times feature “China Rules.”

Note: Since 1992, Qin Hui has played the role of the public intellectual, taking a stand on a range of issues, often in conflict with the official Communist Party line. In December 2015, his best-selling book Zouchu Dizhi (Moving Away from the Imperial Regime), was banned. The work examines how the prospect of constitutional democracy collapsed in early-20th-century China after the country had broken free of the Qing dynasty.


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


“Isch over.”

Thursday, 28 June, 2018

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 was 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.”


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-.


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 Morozov File

Monday, 22 January, 2018 0 Comments

Ever since the great media theorist Marshall McLuhan died in 1980, the search has been on to find a worthy successor. Many have been called but all have failed. Some lacked his intellect, most couldn’t match his wit. For a while it looked as if Neil Postman would carry the torch, but he never said anything as memorable as “the medium is the message.” The latest contender is Evgeny Morozov, who was born in 1984 in Soligorsk, a hideous city in Belarus created by the Soviet tyranny in 1958. Naturally, Morozov fled the ghastly Belarus for the freedom of the USA and there he morphed into a media theorist.

Morozov is very much in touch with the Zeitgeist as his McLuhanian formulations shows. Examples: “data extractivism”, “algorithmic consensus” and “predatory emancipation”. Here’s now he threads this jargon together:

“Any effort to understand why the intensification of the regime of data extractivism has failed to generate widespread discontent has to grapple with the ideological allure of Silicon Valley. Here one can also detect a certain logic at play — a logic of what I call ‘predatory emancipation.’ The paradox at the heart of this model is that we become more and more entangled into political and economic webs spun by these firms even as they deliver on a set of earlier emancipatory promises. They do offer us a modicum of freedom —but it only comes at the cost of greater slavery.”

Evgeny Morozov That’s from a paper he wrote for a Strasbourg quango called the Council of Europe titled DIGITAL INTERMEDIATION OF EVERYTHING: AT THE INTERSECTION OF POLITICS, TECHNOLOGY AND FINANCE (PDF 401KB). It’s turgid stuff, but it goes down well in Europe, especially in Germany, a major funder of Morozovian output, as his dissing of Silicon Valley and his critiques of capitalism is music to the ears of an elite anti-American clique in German media. And, in fact, Morozovian English sounds at times like machine-translated German:

“We are moving towards the model of ‘benevolent feudalism’ — where a number of big industrial and, in our case, post-industrial grants take on the responsibilities of care and welfare — that was postulated by some analysts at the beginning of the 20th century as the future of industrial capitalism as such. It took an extra century to arrive at this vision but any sober analysis of the current situation should dispense with the ‘benevolent’ part of the term and engage much deeper with its ‘feudalism’ part: just because power is exercised upon us differently than in the good old days when the capitalist mode of production ruled supreme and unchallenged does not mean that we are ever more emancipated. After all, plenty of slaveholders in the American South argued that slavery, too, was a much more humane system than capitalism.”

Morozov is no McLuhan but he’s trousering lots of euros for his gadfly vexatiousness. In the end, he’ll turn it into an academic act powered by a Harvard doctorate and tenure will, inevitably, soften his rage against the machine. It’s a long way from Soligorsk to Sunnyvale and although Evgeny Morozov will never publicly thank Silicon Valley for his success, he must, secretly, be grateful for its existence. As Marshall McLuhan once said, “Art is anything you can get away with.”


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