Category Archives: Politics

#NEVERMYPRESIDENT

 

This is the winter of my discontent.

This is the winter of my discontent.

 

Just two weeks ago, the cosmic cycle, at least as we Earthlings see it, reached its end and immediately began its course anew. Our sun rises and sets. And the planets orbit that sun, oblivious to the species that dominates Planet Earth and continues the self-eviscerating process of destroying its own living, breathing environment, as well as slaughtering other species, even its own. Why do we do this? For wealth, for power? I suppose they are one and the same.

The above probably would not seem a promising start to a holiday letter. But it was what I spontaneously wrote as I contemplated our annual missive to friends and relatives.

Fortunately, I thought better of using it and attempted a more upbeat version.

Unfortunately, it reflects the writer’s state of mind this winter.

With massacres in Syria and the countless other atrocities that are causing the refugee floods from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere; with Europe weakened by Brexit, populist movements and insufficient leadership; with the new tenant moving into the White House, chosen by less than 25% of the electorate, having won (or actually LOST by 3 million popular votes) on a message of hate and division – no, sorry, neither my brain nor my heart can muster a message of optimism for the New Year 2017.

I have read that clinical depression is diagnosed when a person finds him/herself depressed for no apparent reason. So I can breathe a sigh of relief and begin the year with the certainty that I am definitely not clinically depressed.

No, for much, if not all my pessimism, can be explained by one huge event that will be sending shock waves through the planet for the foreseeable future: the election of Donald J. Trump to the American presidency. As most of my readers know, I don’t live in the US but in Germany. This year, for the first time since 2000 (when another Democratic candidate was cheated out of this post), I was in the US in November and experienced the circus firsthand. I became addicted to watching quality news broadcasting and following incredulously little t’s path to the Oval Office. I must say, any belief I had in the democratic election process has been thoroughly shaken, if not completely destroyed.

Now back home, I am still following as best I can, the way the US and the rest of the world have reacted to t’s alleged election victory. Since then, I’ve been participating enthusiastically in the fireworks ceaselessly exploding on Facebook, sharing articles that reflect my opinions – and it would seem, the opinions of many. It isn’t easy, but I try to stay away from name-calling FB users with views contrary to mine. (Many of them do not reciprocate the courtesy.) But I do not spare little t. He deserves any name that anyone calls him, except President.

It is true, I have not listened to the news on Fox nor read Breitbart online to discover if I have somehow missed little t’s good side: his presidential demeanor and diplomatic prowess, his magnanimous spirit, revelations of his much-touted “secret plans”. However, to this day – three days prior to his inauguration – the content of those secret plans to fix the Affordable Care Act or to end the war in Syria, have remained just that: secret. Why, even the Republicans who hold sway in both Houses of Congress are not that big on content either. In regard to repealing Obama Care, what are they going to replace it with?  They have no idea; they just know, it has to go! Who cares if millions of Americans lose their health care coverage!

I must confess that, rather than tuning into Fox or Breitbart, I have relied solely on listening to t’s very own voice on TV, expounding his great, fantastic, big ideas, plans, programs, etc. Unfortunately, so far there is still no discernable content. Or to reprise an earlier presidential campaign: Where’s the beef? Gee, back then, voters actually asked that question. Now, it would seem many were satisfied with any empty hamburger roll.

Of course, it’s been hard to avoid the charming Kelly Anne Conway and her attempts to interpret the “World According to DJT” to the real world – what did little t actually mean when he said X, Y, Z? She has told us that we shouldn’t listen to his words but see what is in his heart.

This is about the time when I find myself gagging.

In fact, this is when we can change the station. We needn’t bother listening to her blather, for when she is done, we are none the wiser.

The biggest – in reality, the only hurdle to returning to normality is DONALD J TRUMP. With every Tweet he alienates anyone who voted against him. He widens the abyss and digs it deeper. No, you don’t have to watch CNN or MSNBC to become afraid of what t will do to the US, Europe, NATO or the UN. Not to mention the damage he will do in relations with Russia*(!!!), China and North Korea. All you need to do is read or listen to the unfiltered, unedited pronouncements emanating from his own mouth.

IMHO we have a right to worry.

So what lies ahead for 2017? Impeachment? Constitutional crises? Only the stars know.

*That’s a kettle of fish I’m going to leave the lid on right now. Can’t wait to find out what’s really in the pot. But one thing is for sure: it will stink.

The winter sun sets on my discontent.

The winter sun sets on my discontent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Disasters, Donald Trump, Europe, Politics, Syrian civil war, US Election 2016

WHERE’S THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT GONE THIS YEAR?

The Trump has stolen Christmas!

It’s down to the wire with sending those Christmas cards, shopping for presents and decorating the tree. But why can’t I get into the seasonal spirit this year?

Never fear, I do intend to tell you why.

For the first time since 2000, I was in the US for the election. Back then it was bad enough. I was relieved to hear, as my plane lifted off for Germany, that the winner of the popular vote, Al Gore, had been declared president. Upon arrival in Frankfurt, George W. Bush was suddenly president. We all know how well those eight years went.

This time round, I was, during the course of the primaries and the election campaign, so appalled by DJ Trump’s campaign that I took a step unprecedented for me. I registered to vote in my home state of New York, a place I hadn’t lived since 1972. Over my adult lifetime in Germany, I have never felt a need to vote in US elections. The issues were mainly American; I did not know about them, I lived in a place beyond their relevance and was content to leave the choices up to the locals.

But as this election cycle progressed,  I was reminded of the undeniable fact that US foreign policy runs the world – even though American election campaigns cannot be won on foreign affairs issues! It seem to me that a good deal of at least the Western world should have a vote in a choice far too significant to be limited to the US populace. Alas, that will never happen. So I took up the gauntlet to play the minuscule role allotted me and voted for Hillary Clinton.

Again, as the campaign rolled on, it became increasingly evident that Trump did not possess the personality, judgement or even the interest in doing the job that would qualify him to govern a county that loves to call itself the greatest on earth. The thought of his winning was just too ridiculous to seriously believe it could happen.

But happen it did. And in N Jersey I witnessed up close all the coverage following it, all the flabbergasted pundits who said it couldn’t/wouldn’t and above all shouldn’t happen. It was addicting, keeping up with the latest news on T’s atrocious appointments and nominations, on his Tweets that revealed a wild-west gun-slinger shooting from the hip with nary a thought of consequences. It was a heady feeling seeing protests across the country of Americans  peacefully (in the main), declaring that T was #NOT MY PRESIDENT.

BUT this was the man the country had chosen. Well, at least the 56 % who went to the polls. Well, of them 46.1 % who voted for him. Pitted against the 48.2 % who voted for Hillary Clinton (also-rans clocked in with 5.7 %). Clinton’s lead in the popular vote continues to rise. And now as it is almost final, she has 2.86 million more votes than he does. Doesn’t that work out to be somewhat less than a quarter of the population voting for him? Doesn’t it make you wonder what would happen if everybody voted? (BTW in Australia voting is a legal requirement. You will be fined if you don’t do your patriotic duty.)

Who knew that it really takes this long to count all the ballots. Who knew that the 50 States each has its own version of outdated polling equipment leaving them wide open for rigging the count.

Not to mention the restrictions put on the Right to Vote Act that barred millions of willing voters from casting their ballots.

T keeps calling his win a historic landslide. Hmm, lots of adjectives come to mind to describe his “win”, but not that.

With far too many anomalies to be classified as an election as usual, it is impossible to return to the routine order of the day. We now know that the Russians, led by their top KGB agent Vladimir Putin, interfered with the process via cyper-hacking. Of course, the FBI did their best to stir up the idiotic email issue – again – a few days before the election – which turned out to be unfounded as well as completely politically motivated.

I could go on till Hell freezes over about what stinks in this election. And most of you reading my post will know this already. But please bear with me while I make a few modest suggestions:

  1. Something must be done about the electoral college system. Either get rid of it or give the states the number of electors that truly represents their population. Go to http://www.nationalpopularvote.com to find out about what is already afoot to circumvent the necessity of a constitutional amendment to neutralize the college.
  2. Update your polling stations with machines that work, cannot be manipulated and can actually be examined for correct results.
  3. Improve the teaching of social studies, history and ethics in the schools so that children can learn how to be good citizens, how to respect the rights of others with disabilities and different skin colors, religions and sexual orientations. Make sure you have teachers capable of fulfilling this extremely important mission! If I recall correctly, in the US the separation of Church and State is still anchored in the constitution. Schools are not a venue for teaching creationism or white supremacy.
  4. Political correctness has had some really bad press. Rethink why this sometimes awkward principle is so vital in today’s United States and in the world as a whole. It’s all about:

    RESPECTING THE DIFFERENCES OF OTHERS!

Which brings me back to our President-Elect who shows very little regard for anyone other than Number 1. He mocks people who are different; he is actively supporting racism by his choice of staff and cabinet, elevating unqualified people who bring with them from the get-go plenty of their very own conflicts of interests. His, of course, he dismisses as his divine right.

(BTW the US President is not a deity, unlike Roman Emperors of yore.)

It would be too much to hope that tomorrow the Electoral College will be self-confident enough to stop Trump’s march to the Oval Office. That being so, I see many rocky roads before us. And I see the time, effort and resources that should be used to solve the nation’s urgent problems, being wasted in the next couple of years to impeach this travesty of a president.

He is not my President and never will be. I am ashamed to have to admit that I am an American citizen.

With all of these thoughts in my head, I just can’t muster much enthusiasm for celebrating Christmas this year.

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Filed under civil rights, Disasters, Gender Questions, human rights, Politics, US Election 2016

Frans Timmermanns’ View of Brexit

 

I would like to share Frans Timmermanns’ Facebook article, elaborating his view, and indeed his sorrow, at Britain’s choice of leaving the EU.

Timmermanns is the Vice-President of the European Commission, and as we read in this piece, we recognize a true European in education and outlook.

Some of the comments/reactions to his words are also quite illuminating. I have not commented on his page, but as you may well assume, my sharing this is my way of agreeing with his views.

https://m.facebook.com/notes/frans-timmermans/when-in-rome-learning-to-understand-the-english/1132734193416105

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Filed under BREXIT, Disasters, Europe, Great Britain, Migration, Politics

POST-BREXIT BLUES

https://scontent-vie1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/13532954_927445477378417_7592389639846091400_n.jpg?oh=f8a9a08c1c6388b457c88fadea7c8fcb&oe=57EF95F0

The Continuing Saga of a Land Cursed

By Getting That for Which It Voted

 

Keeping up with the press in the last 10 days has been an exercise in head shaking, if not outright head banging. Two days after the Brexit debacle, the country was already in denial, and the disaffected were calling for a repeat referendum. And a lot of them had voted for Brexit!

All of a sudden, all that the leave campaign had promised if the UK left the EU became relativized. Like the 350 million pounds that would go straight into improving the National Health system. No, sorry, they couldn’t guarantee that. Well heck, just because they wrote it on the sides of big red buses and drove them non-stop around the land, that didn’t mean it would happen.

And well heck again, maybe that’s NOT what we pay into the EU every week any way – as the remain side told everybody, but no one seemed to want to hear it. It was the gross payment, and not the net payment, which is calculated after all that Britain gets back as support for various projects and the rebates that they jealousy accrued over the decades. In the end the figure was more accurately stated as closer to the 190 million pound mark that was paid for services rendered.

Then there was the claim that Britain could, on its own terms, stay in the EU single market but without the free movement of workers, i.e. immigrants from other EU states. During the campaign EU politicians had already burst that bubble. But the leave campaign wouldn’t listen and kept promising this. On day one after the vote, I heard the only UKIP (the right-wing anti-Europe party) Member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, holding forth to a BBC interviewer that Britain could now demand this and demand that and would get it. On which planet does this man reside? (Or what is his drug of choice?)

All sorts of other important facts, like the actual relationship of the EU to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) with Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, seem to have fallen by the wayside. That these states also pay their dues to the EU for the privilege of access to the market – without any right to participate in making the laws that regulate that trade – seems to have got lost in the rhetoric on how Britain would determine the future set-up. Doesn’t that sound like a bargain for the Brits? Just the ticket?

Then there are the Scots and the Northern Irish. The former are already looking for a date for their next independence referendum. They are devoted believers in the European project. The Irish are considering their options. Somehow reunite with the Irish Republic? Will the entire United Kingdom disintegrate over this issue?

An issue that should have never been brought to vote in a referendum?

On Saturday tens of thousands demonstrated in London to stop Brexit. London voted clearly to remain – let’s face it, of all parts of the UK, they have the most to lose – but at this demonstration, people from all over the country came to protest what was about to happen. The petition for a second referendum already has more than 4 million signatures.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/02/march-for-europe-eu-referendum-london-protest

Then of course, with David Cameron stepping down, the race for the next Tory (the currently ruling Conservative Party) leader got into full swing. After Theresa May (current Home Secretary and a remain supporter) and Michael Gove (Justice Minister and Brexit campaigner) announced their bids for leadership, everyone waited with bated breath for Boris Johnson to throw his hat into the leadership ring. BoJo’s speech reflected his personality, albeit somewhat subdued. He had canvassed the Parliamentary Tories and found that at this juncture, he would not be vying for the leadership post after all – and thus, he would not be the next Prime Minister. It would seem that the Parliamentary Tories – who would have to elect him – were more remain than leave. He found no support. That’s the tricky thing about power poker.

BTW, Gove, after maintaining religiously that he was not interested in the top job, basically stabbed BoJo in the back with his declaration. (New nickname: Brutus.)

This was a while after BoJo assassinated Cameron by means of a late switch to the (dark) Brexit side.

Oh yes, I must not forget to mention that the leavers seem to have been totally overwhelmed by their success and seem to have no idea of what to do next. Cameron is leaving it to his successor, sometime in the autumn, to initiate the exit process by activating Article 50 of the EU contract. But the EU wants them to start the process today.

The opposition Labour Party is also in disarray. Their leader Jeremy Corbyn, an anachronistic left-winger, is seen is a huge mistake. How fast can they get shot of him, just in case a general election winds up being called?? It’s difficult: He will not go softly into….

The campaign slogan that Brexiteers banged on about incessantly was: “Let’s get our country back!”

Well, now they’ve got it. And they have no clue what to do with it.

So dear readers, the dog’s dinner currently on the menu in Britain has been served. Enjoy your meal.

I trust this round-up gives you an idea of what’s been happening in Britain. Feel like shaking your head in disbelief? Feel like banging it against the nearest wall? I know the feeling. Sure, go ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under BREXIT, Europe, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Politics

My Political Seer from the Sibillini Mountains

Once again I have been privileged to receive pronouncements from a political voice rising from the mist of the Sibylline Mountains in Central Italy. This time Nic Mudie offers his brief but scathing views on a couple of the seemingly eternal problems dodging the EU. I have added a couple of notes in parenthesis to help foreigners understand Nic’s code. (Although some of it I don’t understand myself…)

Tsipras, I had assumed, was the demotic spelling for Cyprus in Latin script but turned out to be the moniker of a feisty fart young smeller who changes his tune about 3 times a day. But then the Greeks can be relied upon to have several words for it, whatever it is. I was also convinced that his companion in crime , if not support for Crimea in Russian hands, said ‘ Where? You fu..ers’, as he threatened to let the tyres down on poor old Schauble’s Rollstuhl (wheelchair) . It turned out that Veroufakis was just introducing his well qualified self. Having taught economics just about everywhere including Cambridge he’s now got the chance to put it into practice: call it work experience. He can be his own intern.
Once Draghi’s (head of European Central Bank) had his hissy fit about not swapping meaningless paper for worthless, watch out for extend and pretend re Greek loans. Paper vehicles like ‘variated zero coupon perpetuals ‘ will start flying around. As I said, Greeks have always got a word for it which means ‘We’re not paying’ to them and ‘ Oh yes you are’ to the German taxpayer. Wiser heads than mine will start wielding terms like bisque bonds, which means to most people: delicious creamy lobster soup (the average German will think to himself that’s far too good for those lazy Levantines and I’m not going Dutch on the restaurant bill; I only had Wurst und Kartoffel (sausage and potatoes). The term was first coined by Keynes and sought to tie interest rates and rates of repayment to changes in GDP growth.

Nuffovallthat (enough of all that): we’ve got a new president in Italy after only 4 rounds of voting and Burly boy (Berlusconi) is definitely pissed off, as this new chap is most unlikely to offer him a pardon.

Nic did send me this a few day ago and thus I am forced – to my chagrin – to add the latest on Berlusconi. He has won the final appeal against his conviction for having sex with an underaged prostitute and a few other associated charges. He had been banned from holding public office, but now that, too, is rescinded. Despite theoretically having been cleared, the 78 year-old has suffered massive damage from the disclosure of the regular “bunga-bunga parties” with prostitutes that took place in his Milan villa.

We can only hope that the Italian electorate has finally recognized this man for what he is. May they never again let themselves be seduced to elect him to public office!

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Filed under Europe, Italy, Politics

5 MILLION MARCH IN PARIS AND OTHER FRENCH CITIES

 

On Sunday unprecedented numbers of people were not afraid to show their solidarity with those murdered in Paris last week.

A sea of humanity ebbed and flowed on streets and squares across France and in other European capitals, demonstrating their solidarity with the families of the victims and defending liberty, equality and fraternity against the forces of terrorism.

People of all races, colors and religions, with 40 world leaders heading up the march, came together in the hope that this could be a tragedy that pulls all the disparate forces of society together to find a way forward in a country with Europe’s highest populations of Muslims and Jews. It was a remarkable sight after the carnage on Parisian streets last week. And we can only pray that other radical sections of society won’t seek revenge for these acts of terror.

I was especially moved by the Muslim voices that came forward in the media coverage, condemning the terrorists. Above all, Malek Merabet, the brother of the slain Muslim policeman, Ahmed Merabet. They were false Muslims, he said, for Islam is a religion of peace and love. The terrorists were disaffected people using Islam as an excuse for their crimes.

As moving as the occasion was, my thoughts cannot help but stray to the thereafter. It’s well and necessary to employ anti-terror measures and intelligence to try and prevent such travesties, but even though the perpetrators were known by the authorities, it didn’t avert their evil deeds.

In my opinion, the only solution is not an easy one, nor is it a speedy one. Only people who have a stake in mainstream society will live and act in a way to maintain that status quo. The rub is: there are far too many dispossessed immigrants living in France. Until they are educated and/or trained to do work that allows them to respect themselves – and others – and become part of the system, they will be vulnerable to demigods and hate mongers who are themselves products of their disjointed world.

Of course, this message cannot only be directed at France. Great Britain, Germany, Italy and other countries beyond Europe have many of the same problems to a varying extent, whether resulting from their past colonial transgressions or from the present humanitarian catastrophes currently convulsing the Middle East, Ukraine and great swathes of Africa. There is a lot of homework to be done and a lot of money that needs spending, and the less that is applied to weapons, the better.

But how can I as an individual make any difference in this terrible malaise?

  • By using my vote to elect leaders who understand that politicians are not there for their own aggrandizement but to work hard on behalf of their constituencies – including those who genuinely need help, to solve problems rather than causing more.
  • By being hands-on in welcoming new refugees to my community in any form required. Language classes, help with bureaucracy, finding accommodations…

The list is goes on.

We are all Charlie.

 

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Filed under Politics, Terror

August 4th – Commemoration of Britain’s Declaration of War Against Germany

All day Monday services of commemoration took place in Belgium and across the UK. In the evening the BBC broadcast the services held at the military cemetery Saint Symphorien near Mons, Belgium ( the site of the first battle between the British and German forces). This cemetery where soldiers from all the combatant countries were buried next to each other was the idea of a German officer in 1915 – during the height of the war. The idea was to create a Waldfriedhof, a forest cemetery, honoring the sacrifice on all sides.

British, Belgian and German heads of state and several heads of government were present and participated actively in the proceedings. Serenely orchestrated combining music, poetry and prose, it was a fitting remembrance of the millions who died, I hate to say it,  completely in vain.

CORRECTION OF AUGUST 1st POST

I would like to correct my post in which I stated that Russia declared war on Germany on August 1, 1914. In fact it was the other way around.

In the lethal chain of events that precipitated war on so many fronts, Germany declared war on Russia when they mobilized on Germany’s eastern borders.The Russian-German border ran right down the middle of where Poland should have been!

Russian claims  that they were “only” mobilizing against Austria-Hungary because of the latter’s war against Serbia were of no help since Germany was allied to Austria-Hungary.

August 4th marks Britain’s declaration of war against Germany upon their invasion of neutral Belgium. And so the tragic timeline continues during the course of August and on into the following 4 years.

It is scary the way so many journalists are comparing the current situation with that of 100 years ago: Ukraine, Syria, Gaza, Libya, Iraq. And let’s not forget Afghanistan and Pakistan. Where else have I left out?

The only hope is that we did learn something from all the mistakes of the 20th century. Nothing is predestined. And there mustn’t be any attempts scorned at finding solutions

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Filed under Endings, German History, Great Britain, Politics, Remembering, World Wars