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The Tragedy of Andreas Lubitz

Friday, 27 March, 2015 0 Comments

They buried Richard III in Leicester Cathedral yesterday. As the excavated remains of the blood-sodden English king were being laid to rest, the Bishop of Leicester said, “All our journeys lead to this place where reputation counts for nothing.” But what does this mean? That history does not distinguish between good and evil? That the passenger and the pilot are made equal when the plane crashes? Shakespeare begged to differ, and he had this to say in The Tragedy of Richard the Third, Act 5, Scene 3:

What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by.
Richard loves Richard; that is, I and I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am.
Then fly! What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! Alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself.
I am a villain. Yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well. Fool, do not flatter:
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.

Brice Robin, the chief prosecutor of Marseilles, listened to the recovered audio file, from start to finish, of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525. He concluded that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz knew his actions and his slow, steady breathing were being recorded.
“Is there a murderer here?”
Why did the lives of those 149 people mean absolutely nothing to him?
“Alas, I rather hate myself.”
We do not know what goes through the mind of a person who feels utter despair. We cannot comprehend the anguish the chronically depressed feel. We are unable to understand the actions of those who have lost all hope. But the Bishop of Leicester was wrong in claiming that all our journeys lead to a place where reputation counts for nothing. Those who write the rough drafts of history have examined the last moments of the co-pilot and his hostage passengers. Their Shakespearean verdict will stand:
“And every tale condemns me for a villain.”


Germanwings flight 4U9525

Tuesday, 24 March, 2015 0 Comments

Over the years, the Rainy Day team has flown dozens of times to and from Barcelona, over the French Alps. Our thoughts today are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 who died there this morning.

Germanwings

Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things.
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights, where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.

Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937)


Johann Sebastian Bach is 330

Saturday, 21 March, 2015 0 Comments

Today is Bach in the Subways Day. In Leipzig, Los Angeles and Lviv, musicians are going underground to celebrate Johann Sebastian Bach’s 330th birthday and, given that Glenn Gould called Bach the greatest architect of sound, there’s a certain concord to their choosing of echoing spaces. Bach’s music is, in the words of the American musicologist Richard Taruskin, “a medium of truth, not beauty” and nowhere is this more evident than in his Mass in B minor. Initially, the Lutheran Bach took on the task of composing a Catholic Mass for very practical reasons — a job application. But what began as pragmatism turned into one of the benchmarks of Western civilization.


Swooping and soaring in elegant and joyful arcs

Monday, 16 March, 2015 0 Comments

Frei Otto, the recipient of this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize, was scheduled to accept the award in Miami in May, but he died on 9 March a few weeks short of his 90th birthday. His roofing concept for the Munich Olympic Park, which was the central stage for the 1972 Games, continues to impress and inspire.

Frei  Otto art

Frei stands for Freedom, as free and as liberating as a bird in flight, swooping and soaring in elegant and joyful arcs, unrestrained by the dogma of the past, and as compelling in its economy of line and in the improbability of its engineering as it is possible to imagine, giving the marriage of form and function the invisibility of the air we breathe, and the beauty we see in Nature.” Lord Peter Palumbo, Chair of the Jury of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.


Strong tobacco from Stark

Thursday, 12 February, 2015 0 Comments

“The truth is that, in contrast to many eurozone countries, Germany has reliably pursued a prudent economic policy. While others were living beyond their means, Germany avoided excess. These are deep cultural differences and the currency union brings them to light once again.” So writes Jürgen Stark, a former board member of the European Central Bank, in today’s Financial Times. “The historical and cultural differences that divide Europe’s union” is the title of the piece and it reveals all one needs to know about the division and disunion at the heart of the euro experiment.

In some ways, the comments are more revealing than the article.

This man needs to read Michael Pettis.The self satisfaction is nauseating.While the “bailout” of the German banks was going on, Siemens was flogging submarines and other much needed rubbish through a vast system of bribery and corruption. senior muppet

For the Greeks it was wonderful for many years to be able to run a political system of patrimonial privilege funded by transfers from outside the country, but that is a self-exciting system in need of a negative feedback loop – which it finally got. The upshot is that now the Greeks are being compelled to consider a choice between maintaining their old social contract or continuing to receive transfers from outside, but not both. In such cases one would normally expect a society to make the most strenuous efforts to avoid the choice. But in their anger at the unfairness of it all, the Greeks now look capable of actually, voluntarily making that choice. Amazing! This moment will not last, but in this moment all kinds of potential surprises now lurk. Whatever

Nice piece of Teutonic my-opism. German non-keynesian economics work as long as there are other countries willing to generate excess demand through borrowing and you can export to (US, China, Souther Europe). It is recipe for disaster for continental size economies. This is not a theoretical debate, the results are painfully obvious. True Finance

Sorry the disasters of the early twentieth century were German disasters. No other country was so bad. You simply cannot read across from a completely awful Germany to anywhere else. Nicki

If Mr Stark is right about the “deep cultural differences” between Eurozone countries, then why on earth did they create a common currency in the first place? This article is basically a list of all the reasons that the Euro should never have come into existence. If the Euro is to succeed, Eurozone countries must work more closely to coordinate their economic policies. It is obvious now that they cannot do so. I have always hoped that the UK would eventually join the Eurozone, but Mr Stark has finally removed the scales from my eyes. Gordon Brown was right after all. Little Briton

Meanwhile, in Spain, six years into its depression, 5.46 million people don’t have jobs, two million households have no earned income, youth unemployment is at 51.4 percent and home prices are down 42 percent. No surprise, then, that the neo-Bolivarian Podemos party is pulling ahead in the polls. The latest Metroscopia survey gave it 28 percent. The ruling conservatives have dropped to 21 percent and the once-mighty PSOE, the Spanish Workers Socialist Party, has fallen to 18 percent. The message to Jürgen Stark is clear: The elites can defend the euro, but they will lose their political base.


Primo Levi remembers the horror of Auschwitz

Tuesday, 27 January, 2015 0 Comments

Primo Levi described his return to Italy from the Auschwitz concentration camp in La tregua (The Truce). The Truce In this Paris Review interview, Levi reminisces about one of the book’s characters: “You remember Mordo Nahum? I had mixed feelings toward him. I admired him as a man fit for every situation. But of course he was very cruel to me. He despised me because I was not able to manage. I had no shoes. He told me, Remember, when there is war, the first thing is shoes, and second is eating. Because if you have shoes, then you can run and steal. But you must have shoes. Yes, I told him, well you are right, but there is not war any more. And he told me, Guerra es siempre. There is always war.”

Today, as the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we should strive to understand the revulsion that Primo Levi felt towards those who took part in the Nazi extermination campaign and also towards those who could have but did not speak out against it. In memory of the murdered millions, here’s an excerpt from The Truce:

“There is no rationality in the Nazi hatred: it is hate that is not in us, it is outside of man. We cannot understand it, but we must understand from where it springs, and we must be on our guard. If understanding is impossible, knowing is imperative, because what happened could happen again. Consciences can be seduced and obscured again — even our consciences. For this reason, it is everyone duty to reflect on what happened. Everybody must know, or remember, that when Hitler and Mussolini spoke in public, they were believed, applauded, admired, adored like gods. They were ‘charismatic leaders’; they possessed a secret power of seduction that did not proceed from the soundness of things they said but from the suggestive way in which they said them, from their eloquence, from their histrionic art, perhaps instinctive, perhaps patiently learned and practised. The ideas they proclaimed were not always the same and were, in general, aberrant or silly or cruel. And yet they were acclaimed with hosannas and followed to the death by millions of the faithful.”


Written in Alexandria by an Achaean

Sunday, 25 January, 2015 0 Comments

Greeks go to the polls today at a time of rising tension between Athens and its main creditors. A win for the left-wing opposition party Syriza over the ruling conservatives of New Democracy is predicted. Would a Syriza-led government start a game of poker with Germany that could lead to chaos and a Greek exit from the euro? While we wait for the results, let’s turn to the poetry of Constantine P. Cavafy. He knew his Greek history.

Those who fought for the Achaean League

Valiant are you who fought and fell gloriously;
fearless of those who were everywhere victorious.
Blameless, even if Diaeos and Critolaos were at fault.
When the Greeks want to boast,
“Our nation turns out such men” they will say
of you. And thus marvellous will be your praise.

Written in Alexandria by an Achaean;
in the seventh year of Ptolemy Lathyrus.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1863 — 1933)

Note: The Achaean League (280 — 146 BC) was a confederation of Greek city states on the northern and central Peloponnese. It was dissolved when the corrupt generals Diaeos and Critolaos were defeated in 146 BC by the Romans. Cavafy attributes this imaginary epigram to an Achaean living in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy VIII Lathyrus, a turbulent age, somewhat like our own. Actually, Cavafy wrote the poem in 1922, after Greece had been defeated in the Greco-Turkish War. History has no end.

The Achaean league


PEGIDA fever sweeps across Germany

Monday, 15 December, 2014 0 Comments

It will be cold in Dresden tonight, but that won’t stop an expected 10,000 people from taking to the streets to voice their support for PEGIDA. What exactly does the acronym mean? PEGIDA stands for Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes or “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West”. Such is its appeal that similar movements have sprung up in several cities around Germany: “Bogida” in Bonn, “Dügida” in Düsseldorf”, “Kagida” in Kassel and “Wügida” in Würzburg. There are lots of cities in Germany so it’s expected that PEGIDA will expand to fill the alphabet.

PEGIDA

Unease at the record number of immigrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East arriving in Germany seems to be one driver of PEGIDA’s popularity: According to the OECD, a total of 465,000 newcomers moved to the country in 2013 — more than double the number in 2007. But it’s the stated opposition to the “Islamization of the West” that is troubling Berlin, which dreads a clash of civilizations acted out on the streets.

The staunchly middle class nature of the PEGIDA movement is another worry for Germany’s political establishment. The elites are uninterested in politics, so long as the parties don’t touch their wealth, and the underclass is disinterested, so long as the politicians don’t cut welfare. But it’s the emergence of a “squeezed middle” in search of political expression that has alarmed the centrist parties, whose credibility is based on achieving compromise. Might the populist AfD make capital from the emergence of PEGIDA? Might the populist Linke gain traction from the growth of PEGIDA?

In his superb New Yorker article, The Quiet German: The astonishing rise of Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world, George Packer looks at Germany and sums it up thus: “A political consensus founded on economic success, with a complacent citizenry, a compliant press, and a vastly popular leader who rarely deviates from public opinion — Merkel’s Germany is reminiscent of Eisenhower’s America.” And then along came PEGIDA.


The Fall of the Wall at 25

Friday, 7 November, 2014 1 Comment

On Sunday, Germany will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The construction of that infamous barrier began in 1961, and until 9 November 1989 it symbolized the cruelty of Communism and manifested the lie of “Democratic Socialism.” Those who gave their lives when attempting to scale it paid the ultimate price for freedom and their sacrifice should never be forgotten.

The Atlantic has put together a memorable collection of 36 photos chronicling the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. One of the most unforgettable images of the Wall shows East German border guard Conrad Schumann jumping over it, when it was just barbed wire. He made a new life in Bavaria, and saw the Wall fall in real-time on TV. But he struggled with his past and, suffering from depression, committed suicide in 1998. One more victim of an evil, discredited ideology.

The Berlin Wall


Ian Rankin sums it up

Tuesday, 5 August, 2014 0 Comments

Back story: F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone pays to end bribery trial


Germany were the team of the tournament

Monday, 14 July, 2014 0 Comments

And it was their passing game that won them the World Cup. Having absorbed the central tenet of FC Bayern Munich coach, Sep Guardiola, — hold the ball and attack — they deservedly beat Argentina in last night’s final. Unlike the Brazil or England game, the German approach was never static. That’s why they were the team of the tournament.