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Tag: Germany

These EU elections again

Wednesday, 15 May, 2019

Apart from the excitement generated so far by the astonishing polling performance of the Brexit Party in the UK, this year’s European Union Parliament elections are inducing even more torpor than ever. European political debate, such as it is, is still dominated by Brexit, while President Macron’s EU reform proposals, which should have lit a fire, have been completely quenched. Credit for that must go to Chancellor Merkel, who ignored them, and her designated successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has done nothing to suggest that she’s going to deviate from Mutti’s cold-shoulder line. Reformist ideas coming from France simply don’t survive the crossing of the Rhine anymore.

This leaves us with an election in which mostly Lilliputian candidates repeat mostly hackneyed phrases. Because the stakes are so low, turnout will be low, too. And because nothing much will change after 26 May the lack of voter excitement is totally justified. Despite Brexit, the immigration crisis and the fragility of the euro, the EU seems unable to energize itself or the citizens of its member states. This is all the more astonishing, given that Europe’s North Atlantic partner and protector is drifting away, China’s rapacious Belt and Road initiative is making inroads in Italy after making important acquisitions in Greece and Russia is becoming ever more dangerous as it expands its malign influence into the eastern regions of the EU. There’s lots going on but the European Union seems destined to a future of global irrelevance. It’s not surprising, then, that the so-called populists get all the attention.


Myles & More: April Fool’s Day

Monday, 1 April, 2019

The great Brian O’Nolan, aka Flann O’Brien, spent much of his life creating surreal humour and it was in keeping with his wry world view that he died on April Fool’s Day. “Evil is even, truth is an odd number and death is a full stop,” he said, wryly.

Along with novels and plays, he wrote a weekly column for The Irish Times titled “Cruiskeen Lawn” (from the Irish crúiscín lán, “full/brimming small-jug”) using the pseudonym Myles na gCopaleen (“Myles of the Little Horses”). As a columnist, he deployed a mix of Irish and English, with occasional splashes of Latin, French and German, to pour scorn upon four major targets: the Dublin literary elite, the government of the day, the “Plain People of Ireland” and Gaelic language revivalists. The following Cruiskeen Lawn snippet is topical in that it makes reference to Germany, the Chancellor of which country will visit Dublin on Thursday.

Curse it, my mind races back to my Heidelberg days. Sonya and Lili. And Magda. And Ernst Schmutz, Georg Geier, Theodor Winkleman, Efrem Zimbalist, Otto Grün. And the accordion player Kurt Schachmann. And Doktor Oreille, descendant of Irish princes. Ich hab’ mein Herz / in Heidelberg verloren / in einer lauen / Sommernacht / Ich war verliebt / bis über beide / Ohren / und wie ein Röslein / hatt’ / Ihr Mund gelächt or something humpty tumpty tumpty tumpty tumpty mein Herz it schlägt am Neckarstrand.

A very beautiful student melody. Beer and music and midnight swims in the Neckar. Chats in erse with Kun O’Meyer and John Marquess… Alas, those chimes. Und als wir nahmen / Abschied vor den Toren / beim letzten Küss, da hab’ Ich Klar erkannt / dass Ich mein Herz / in Heidelberg verloren / MEIN HERZ / es schlägt am Neck-ar-strand! Tumpty tumpty tum.

  • The Plain People of Ireland: Isn’t the German very like the Irish? Very guttural and so on?
    Myself: Yes.
  • The Plain People of Ireland: People say that the German language and the Irish language is very guttural tongues.
    Myself: Yes.
  • The Plain People of Ireland: The sounds is all guttural do you understand.
    Myself. Yes.
  • The Plain People of Ireland: Very guttural languages the pair of them the Gaelic and the German.
    Myself. Yes.

Tumpty tumpty tum.


Spoiled brats blame Trump for Europe’s failings!

Saturday, 16 February, 2019

“Spoiled for 70 years with an American security blanket, and for the past 20 by a common currency that artificially boosts its export market, Germany has most overreacted to Trump’s unorthodox views concerning NATO and trade. Yet Trump is not to blame for the fact that Berlin’s Nord Stream 2 project is a blatant violation of E.U. competition rules and an abject moral and political betrayal of its Eastern European allies. Trump is not to blame for the pathetic state of the German military. And Berlin has the gall to complain about Trump’s hasty retreat from Syria, despite not having committed a single soldier to the mission.”

So writes James Kirchick for The Brookings Institution in a piece titled Blaming Trump for their problems is the one thing Europeans can agree on. Kirchick has nothing but righteous contempt for Europe’s effete elites:

“In response to Russia’s blatant violations of the INF treaty, which puts the strategic stability of Europe at grave risk, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reflexively called for a global disarmament conference. ‘The minister and his cabinet,’ writes Gustav Gressel of the European Council on Foreign Relations, ‘are detached from military realities.’ You could say the same about Germans generally, 55 percent of whom believe the United States is a threat — twice as many as those who view North Korea as one.”

The absurd Maas and his sycophants will spend this weekend declaiming their mantras at the annual Munich Security Conference but their bleatings are pathetic and transparent. James Kirchick nails it here:

“But as long as Trump remains in the White House, expect most European thought leaders to continue using him as an excuse to avoid contending with the continent’s serious, systemic and structural problems, or pretend that these challenges are somehow the fault of the ogre in the White House. After all, Europeans can agree on so few things these days.”

The sting is in the tail there.


When snowfalls were a thing of the past

Sunday, 13 January, 2019

On Friday, the BBC reported: “Snow brings parts of Europe to standstill.” The item was replete with images and video of the horror. If we are to believe the media now, snow is very much a thing of the present, but back in March 2000, the same industry was telling us a very different story: “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.” That’s what The Independent declared in a piece authored by one Charles Onians.

Why is there no link to the story? Because The Independnt removed it from its website due to the persistent gaiety that resulted from this classic example of #FakeNews. Still, the internet never forgets and here’s a PDF (2.78MB) of the infamous prediction. And what became of Charles Onians? Why, he’s the Rome correspondent @AFP. Which proves once more that there’s no business like snow business, eh?

Snow scam

Meanwhile, from our own correspondent in Munich, snow lodging on tables.

Snow in Munich 2019


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-.