Obama: Everyman’s Whipping Boy

Posted July 28, 2014 on 11:37 pm | In the category Canada, Germany, Obama, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

O-Bama, O-Bama, Wherefore Art Thou?

That is the question that many of us ask, but when we do we must also ask: what kind of country has the U.S. become and why are we unhinged in so very fundamental ways.  The previous entry on this blog by my pals from the friendly North is representative of what seems to me to be a lack of understanding (or empathy? God help us) of just what it is we are suffering through down here in the arid, thought-deficient South.

But let’s begin with our Northern pals’ comments. Right out of the chute (a Calgary rough rider reference, we should note) they wonder whether Obama is the least trusted president in recent memory. As my old Mom would have said, “are you kidding me? have you gone bonkers?” There was for instance “W” and his merry gang of thieves and eejits, led by the estimable Vice, Cheney. All they did was torture people all over the planet, with the help of countries like Germany – just to name one-  start a war on a lie (aided in a somewhat clumsy perhaps accidental way by German Intel), kill ca. 4500 NATO troops (most American but also Canadians, Germans etc.), kill ca 100,000+++ Iraqis, send 200,000+ Iraqis into refugee status, and empower a Shia dictator-to-be to screw Sunnis and Kurds in  whatever way he can thus producing a seemingly perpetual civil war which we are now – too late again – recognizing as a – well, problem.  I could go back further to Reagan and his criminal work with the Contras and Iran, or even Nixon – remember him? Trustworthy guys, eh?

Then we have the concern that Canada – our best friend to the north of us – supposedly moving away from us with the indisputable fact that our ambassadors are not top drawer. Without making a huge point of it, Bush appointed former Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci as ambassador and frankly his best strength was his wife, a bright, articulate librarian at Boston College before she agreed to sacrifice a life in a real city for duty in Ottawa. Fact is that Canada has not had a real U.S. Ambassador for over thirty years and even then they got a guy with blood on his hands. And I do not here discuss the Keyspan pipeline, aka, the Pipe of American Death and Canadian Profit.

And yes, we are reluctant to build a bridge from Detroit to Windsor – but is Obama to blame? I remind those who live in a Parliamentary political system that we have a system of “checks and balances” which has ensured in this time that nothing can ever happen. We live in a Kafka novel.  It is not fair to blame Obama for the failures of a Republican party that has decided not to participate in governance. I know not whether it is because he is black or a democrat or just whether the republicans have drunk the kool aid — what i know is that nothing happens, nothing can be done, and every bad fking thing that happens in the world is presented as the fault of the black American Democrat – and democratically elected – – president.  When considering anything that involves expenditures of federal money always look at congress and specifically the House of Representatives.. They have broken my country and are traitors to the core interests of our country.

Now, onto the unpleasant fact that we are listening to everyone’s phone calls and reading everyone’s emails, including Frau Merkel’s….On one level it is simple to say that of course we spy on Germany  – they are an important player – and that is what intel services do. Alas there are issues of trust – and issues of competence.. When i read about the spying on Merkel I thought that – well – ok, but why are you listening to MY calls and reading MY emails? Obama has clearly been sucked into the security organizations’ thinking and that is not a good reflection on his judgment. The CIA has – at best – a questionable record and that a President with a background in constitutional law would do what he has done is more than very troubling.

But for we who live in this country the mood of the people is more troubling. There is a strange and nasty beast out there and it is ignorant, stupid, lazy and ugly and it blames Obama for everything wrong in its  world. So more of this in the future. More on President Obama’s failures, Congress’s complicity, and the failure of the American people to grasp and deal with reality. It is, alas, a rich subject.

 

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Obama’s Stunde Null

Posted July 14, 2014 on 11:32 pm | In the category Canada, Europe, Germany, Public Diplomacy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Is Obama trying to become the least trusted president of the US in recent memory? If he is, he doing a very good job of it. Just in the last couple of months he has managed to alienate many of his formerly most reliable friends, none worse than Germany, although Canada would also have a good case of feeling most offended. Perhaps the Canadian irritations seem to be small matters, but they have certainly added up, and do nothing to bring about any sense of harmony among the second and third largest countries on earth, not to mention a feeling of solidarity in North America. There is no doubt that Canada is quickly drawing away from its long-standing position of being a close ally of its smaller southern neighbour, whose arrogance in such matters as the naming of ambassadors, the paying of obviously-due bills, the willingness to co-operate on border issues, and the inability of Washington to understand that spying on your friends and neighbours is considered unacceptable by respected governments, and the simple absence of courtesy visits is simply rude by Canadian standards. The two US ambassadors to Canada appointed by Obama have both been non-diplomat bagmen for Democrats with no experience in foreign affairs or for that matter in Canada. The US seems to be unwilling to pay for the building and maintenance of a new border crossing on the desperately needed new bridge to Canada near Detroit, but has plenty of money for drones cruising along the once so-called longest unarmed border in the world. The almost total absence of visits by the Candian Prime Minister to Washington and the US president to ottawa does nothing to dispel the feeling that these two countries are not getting along well.
But the situation with regard to Germany has deteriorated even more rapidly. Any North American liviing in Germany has long had the feeling that the Germans basically ten d to look at eh US through rose-oloured glasses, no doubt because of the US eole in t he Second World War and its aftermateh. (These same German almost never know anything about the role of Canada , whose army played a major part in the D-Day invasion and fought its way on its own through northern France and the Netherlands.) But that good will has almost been destroyed by the revelations about Washington’s tapping of phones of the leaders of government there, including the private cell phone of Prime Minister Merkel, who seemed honestly taken aback by this revelation . As she was brought up in the DDR, she is more or less the last person on earth who has to be reminded of the awful reaction of citizens who hear that their private communications have been listened to by threatening governments, in this case a foreign one. And now the head of the CIA in Berlin has been kicked out of Germany as the proof of illegal spying that came out of his office continues to widen . What birdbrains allowed this to happen? did they really think the Germans, by far the central power of Europe. would take this affront without acting? And there we can see it: Merkel talking with Putin in Rio about the Ukrainian situation, which has left the US once again all at sea, German Foreign Minister Steinmeyer icily confronting an outmatched US Foreign Minister Kerry in Vienna. It’s all unnecessary, if there were only some sense of diplomatic skill coming out of Washington . But there isn’t and we shall see what the consequences are of such amateur behaviour.

 

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Ukraine and the war that threatens to end peace (again)

Posted March 4, 2014 on 6:15 pm | In the category Europe, Germany, Russia | by Mackenzie Brothers

And so the Crimean crisis seems to have settled down a bit. The Russian military has taken control of the Crimea, encircled Ukrainian army bases on the peninsula, and warned the two Ukrainian war ships out on the Black Sea to not even think about confronting overwhelming Russian power at its naval base in Sevastopol. Russian solders show no sign of leaving an area the size of Sicily in which 70% of the population speaks Russian and welcomes their presence. There is no doubt that if a plebiscite were held, which the Russians are demanding , the people of the Crimea would vote to join Russia. Needless to say, this is a complicated situation, demanding patience and knowledge.
Meanwhile Putin says he has called back the dogs of war out on the Russian-Ukrainian, where 150,000 Russian troops happened to be holding training exercises near Russian-speaking cities in eastern Ukraine, which might well also vote to join Russia. These areas pose a much greater threat to stability in Europe if Russian troops move in “to protect a Russian minority in a former USSR republic” stranded there by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has no treaty connection with western Europe and has no chance of joining the EU or Nato in the near future as some really ignorant commentators in the west seem to think. But Estonia and Latvia do an d include with large Russian populations still unhappily stranded after twenty years of living in independent Baltic states. They are both in the EU and Nato and any Russian movement to recover them would automatically bring all EU nations into a military confrontation with Russia. For many this will recall the way that Europe stumbled unknowingly into a carnage that killed 60 million people exactly a century ago in “The War that Ended Peace (the title of Margaret Macmillan’s fine new book on the topic) would make a lot of experts who know the complicated history of Eastern Europe very nervous indeed. If Russia should cross the Russian-Ukrainin=an border near Donetsk or Kharkov, it is unclear what might happen, and nobody is taking bets on the future of the Crimea, but Estonia is another matter. That would bring war.. And so the poobahs are assembling again, this time in Kiew, which has proven to be a very unwelcome place for good government, no matter who won the democratic elections, in the twenty years since Ukraine became free. Western commentators have found it easy to forget (or not know) that the recently deposed Prime Minister of Ukraine, who even the Russians don’t like, won an election that was deemed to be fair and square by the UN observers. He may have acted like a corrupt despot when in power, but he did win an election in which the current temporary Prime Minster, got 7% of the vote and seems to be unimpressing almost everyone.

But here they come to lay flowers , deliver some platitudes and hopefully solidify votes at home. The Canadian foreign minister John Baird does his job well, knowing there are i,3 million ethnic Ukrainians in Canada and that Ukrainian affairs play an very significant role in the settlement of the Canadian prairies,,an d the determination of elections. But before he leaves, he does mention that Canada is not considering any kind of military response. (The US might consider recalling their ambassador to Canada to give them insights into the history of Ukraine but they can’t do that since they haven’t had an ambassador in Canada for many months). John Kerry, the US Secretary of State follows Baird by several days but takes the same trail and states that Russia will have a price to pay if it doesn’t stop its aggression. Unfortunately a tired and confused-looking Kerry cannot answer any questions about what that price would be. Lat time Obama used football talk to warn about crossing a line drawn in the sand in Syria the result was no response from the US when someone did precisely that and a very clever chess move from a surprisingly wily Putin. The US certainly cannot be contemplating a military response, but it doesn’t exactly want to admit it. Putin knows it and looks like a cat who swallowed a canary in his press conference. H e also know that while the US can’t do much but bluster, he can cut off the fuel lines which heat most of Ukraine and a great deal of western Europe. How do you like dem chops? Let’s hope Putin is also a pragmatic figure and knows that he too certainly does not want a war, and that he steps back and considers what to do on the Crimea.. And th at will take serious negotiations by a number of parties. One figure who seems to be placing himself and his country in a position of mediation is German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Whether he likes it or not, he may have to step in and play a big role as this (very fine) German Foreign Minister has a unique insight into the dangers that come up like ghosts from the past when countries get carried away thumping nationalistic big sticks out on the borderlands of Eurasia.

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Big Brother – East German Style

Posted December 5, 2013 on 9:57 pm | In the category Germany, U.S. Foreign Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Now let’s get this straight. A mid-level worker in a country’s security division has access to highest-level secret service documents and comes across information that he thinks should not be kept secret. And so he makes it public. It turns out that that is easier to do than it used to be, and that is true with all other sources of information meant to be kept secret. You simply copy that information and send it out on the internet.  Or you do it Canadian style. An undistiguished sailor in the Canadian navy did it and was caught delivering it to the Russian Embassy (in a quaintly old-fashioned way) in an envelope. It turned out that the Russians hadn’t even asked for it; they simply received it and paid a modest sum of money to a chap in financial trouble who sold it for cash and ended in jail.   And now  a Chinese-born Canadian citizen who works as a research engineer   for a subcontractor for the shipbuilding firm contracted to build Canada’s next generation of warships, has been arrested by the RCMP, charged with having approached the Chinese Embassy with an offer to sell the plans for the ships.   The Chinese government denies it, but the chap sits in jail.  All in all these seem like plots for one of those fine English comedies about amateur crooks, mink thieves, spies, ladykillers, etc, that the Brits can’t make any  more, but they do suggest that there is no such thing as secure information  communications any more.

And then on a much more startling level, with no sense of comedy involved, another (Australian)  chap with apparently easy access to much more explosive material about US spying ended up disclosing it and claiming (and receiving) exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.    But in the most dramatic case a US middle-level technician in the US security establishment took his vast amount of digitalized highest security level information with him to the Moscow Airport and began to gradually send out on the internet stunningly massive amounts of information about  the way the US spy system now works – on an unimagined  level of  electric spying, apparently of just about everybody.  He does not sit in jail, because he managed to get into Russia first.   Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, is furious because the chap in Russian exile published documents that seemed to prove that the US had tapped the chancellor’s private cell phone.  Angela Merkel was born and raised in Communist East Germany, whose main claim to fame was setting up an  all-powerful  spy network that relied on its own  citizens spying on each other with the result that everyone knew that you could not talk in a hotel room or on the telephone anywhere without assuming that some thug was listening in.  Imagine what Chancellor Merkel  makes of the current constellation of world powers. President Obama claims that he didn’t know anything about this mass Big Brother collection of information.  If that is true, it’s terrible.  If it isn’t it’s worse..

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Speak loudly and carry a tiny little stick

Posted September 2, 2013 on 3:31 pm | In the category Europe, Germany, Middle East, Obama, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Now let’s get this straight. Ten years ago, the neatly attired Secretary of State of the United States told the UN Security Council that his security experts had definite proof that the nasty Arab dictator of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that council should therefore  approve a military action that would remove them from his control. Okay that turned out to be a fib – there were no such weapons and it may even be that the poor secretary didn’t know it – and the results are very much central to the problems of the middle east today. Iraq is a dangerous place, its minorities have fled or are hidden in holes and the once legendary city of Bagdad is a disaster zone.  The nasty dictator was executed, but chaos rules in his absence and for the normal Iraquis, if they managed to survive the ensuing war, life is no better or worse than before.   My brother was at the Baltimore Ravens football game when that attack was announced by then President George Bush and explains  that the president waited until half time to announce the news on  the giant jumbo screen that the invasion had begun.  Didn’t want to interrupt the game when it was on.  The 80,000 spectators cheered.

Now we have the next president announcing in best sports lingo that he was drawing a line in some kind of sand (beach volleyball?) and if anyone dared venture  over that  he would take out his big stick and thump them, just like the Ravens’ defense did that afternoon a decade ago.  Now it seems clear that somebody did  that recently by throwing poison gas across the line, and the current Secretary of State, very nattily attired,  is haunting the talk shows to announce that the security aces of the United States, who know everything about you, also know who is guilty of crossing the red line, namely the nasty dictator of Syria this time.  He denies it, though it may well be the case, but it is not yet proven and the Iraqui past haunts this present like a ghost.  The powerful president of Russia says he doesn’t believe it ,  and then the British parliament cut down their prime minister at the knees by voting against his decision to join the attack with the US, apparently forgetting that in the UK the Parliament has to approve such an action.  The Prime Minister of Canada, which did not join the attack on Iraq,  says he is a”reluctant convert” to this one (whatever that means), and won’t contribute any military help.  Germany says it will never join a military action not sanctioned by an international body like the UN (as they well know,this one doesn’t have a chance there).  Even Israel is not taking sides on this one, afraid of the results of any such invasion, no matter who wins.  The only real military power answering the call to use the big stick is France, which, according to Secretary of State Kerry, is the longest-standing ally of the US.  (He said that with a straight face, but many thought he remembered the French contributions in the Second World War,  Vietnam, NATO, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. and meant it ironically).

And now the wielder of the big stick has run for cover and suddenly announced he will wait for approval from a Congress which won’t be able to deal with that for some weeks.  Obama will be meeting with Putin in a couple of days at a G-20 conference in St. Petersburg. As  a warm-up to the reception he will receive in St. Petersburg, he will spend his first European night in Stockholm where the frosty fall nights are already  well underway. Needless to say Sweden will not be supporting an attack on Syria.  When he sits down with  Putin, he must be prepared for the following difficult questions.  1. What will he do if the US congress does  not support him, as happened in the UK to the now lame duck PM Cameron?  It is clear that there is substantial bipartison opposition to the Obama attack proposal, though it seems  likely to pass.  2. Just how does he imagine  the attack?  Most observers think it can only be a brief attack on military targets, airfields , strategy centres,barracks, etc. The Syrian government now will have ample time to remove much of value from such targets in the next weeks.   Cruise missles are very accurate but not 100%, and any variance will inevitably land on civilians.  Is the US prepared for the reaction of the Moslem world if that happens?  3. Worst of all, has the US considered what the  consequences would be if the security information, much of it apparently gathered by tapped telephone calls, turns out to be planted information by the other side, a standard spy-ploy. Many suspect that’s what the Russians suspect – they are no novices at that – and it is not inconceivable.  What if it turns out the US with unmanned drones bombed the wrong targets in another legendary Middle-Eastern city out there in the cradle of civilization.  4. And finally, how does the US imagine the reaction  in the Arab world after an attack.

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Fracking beer

Posted May 29, 2013 on 8:51 pm | In the category Europe, Germany, internatinal Livability, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Finally some progressive optimistic news out of Europe.  It comes of course from Germany, recently voted the most popular country in the world (It remains unclear whether the pollsters reached many of the older folks in Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, etc. while gathering statistics), nudging out Canada for the #1 spot by the length of a keg of beer. And of course the progressive  development erupts out of Bavaria, the province  where virtually all Germans would like to live.   It involves the defence of the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot , which guarantees that Bavarian beer can be made only from hops, yeast  and water. which  was  signed  into law in 1516  in Ingolstadt, 45 minutes north of München, and remains in effect until the present day.  It also guarantees that tremendous amounts of money will pour into the coffers of  München, its splendid capital and surely now Europe’s most compelling city, where most of the people who would like to live in Bavaria would like to live, especially during the fall Oktoberfest . We are speaking, of course, of the  production and quality control  for the matchless beers enjoyed today by the the Audi worker of Ingolstadt on the banks of the beautiful blue Danube as much as by the workers at the Bayrischer Motor Werke factory (BMW), as they savour their afternoon refreshment just as happily across from the Olympic Stadium.

This law has guaranteed the overwhellming superiority of Bavarian-brewed beer over all its pitiful copycats, especially those who suddenly claim that they too produce beer under Bavarian purity law  (they sure don’t taste like it) and has so far withstood endless legal  mindless attacks by the European bureaucrats in Belgium who would like to  do away with an especially delicious  regional products which make a mockery of copycats, products such as  the beers of  München and the wines and cheeses of France, not to mention the kippers of England.  Now it has become a political issue that may come back to haunt Chancellor Merkel, as she tries to help maintain the traditional power of her sister party, the CSU, in Bavaria, though never in München itself.  She has had herself photographed  lifting (with two hands) the smallest vessel (the 1-Liter Mass) into which  Bavarian beer (none other is tolerated) may be poured in  the most pleasant place in the world to quaff a beer; the Bavarian beer garden.  You can take your pick, Hirschgarten, Augustinerkeller, Nockerberg, Aumeister, Thurn und Taxis Garten, Concordia, one could go on for hours naming them .   There you sit at communal tables under the chestnut trees in one of these splendid and  incomparable beer gardens of München while the kids run about doing what kids are meant to do, and the big lads in the Lederhosen roll out the kegs one after the other for the even bigger colleague who fills up your Mass when you pass by him.  But Chancellor Merkel always looks wary and uncomfortable when she tries to do this , and her similarly -inclined conservative political friends wonder whether she is the proper person to determine their affairs when it comes to th e question of the purity of their ber. . She is the daughter of a Lutheran pastor from way up in northeast Germany, not far fro the land of the Bavarians real enemy, the Prussians of Berli.   And she does not look she can overcome that background and finish that Liter of the world’s finest, even if she’d like to.  It is a matter of DNA.  And now she is facing  a  real crisis: the immensely powerful  Association of German Breweries, which also includes the breweries of northern Germany and the German breweries of the traditionally weak US brands, which nobody buys in Bavaria.  That association has demanded that Merkel ban fracking, already a highly controversial process for Germany’s powerful environmentalists, until it is proven that it won’t contaminate ground water, especially since more than half  German breweries use water from private wells drawn on ground water.   This a tough one for Merkel since the next election is less than 3 months away  and banning fracking (or not) for awhile could prove to be a crucial decision  for both conservative rural and hip urban Germany .  That is a coalition with  which  Merkel has not reckoned and one that could cause her one big load of trouble in  crucial ridings all over the country.  May th e power be with ?

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Who has charisma? I’ll tell you who: Angela Merkel

Posted December 5, 2012 on 2:03 pm | In the category Germany, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

In “Schubertiana” one of his greatest poems – and he has written more of them than anyone else alive – the matchless Tomas Tranströmer – incredibly he is  a Nobel prize winner who actually deserved it – presents the  composer  Franz Schubert like this: “And the man who catches  the signals from a whole life in a few ordinary chords from five strings who makes a river flow through the eye of a needle is a stout young gentlemen from Vienna, called “the mushroom” by his friends, who slept with his glasses on and stood  at his writing lectern punctually in the morning.  And then the wonderful centipedes of his manuscript were set in  motion.”  (Trans. Robin Fulton).  What Tranströmer is driving at here, among other things, is that the superficial outer shell of  beauty that  plagues so many contemporary politicians;  think in terms of Obama’s wife and kiddies, Romney’s religious zeal, Sarkozy’s phoney aristocratic bearing, Berlusconi’s bizarre displays of burlesque pleasure, the no-name British prime minister’s ridiculous portrayal of a person of power, etc.  In all of Europe there is now only one politician who has real power and she has  gained it by not playing a role that  is based on poor theatre, but on hard work and policies that have brought results.  This is Angela Merkel, the 57 year old former East German physicist, who displays none of the silliness of her colleagues in supposed power, who dresses without flair (we have to mention the one extraordinary exception to this that proved the rule when she wore a dress to the opening of the new Oslo Opera House that was so low-cut that the puritanical Norwegians missed watching the opera), and whose husband, an eminent physicist, is never seen at political events.

Against all odds she has now been in power as  the first female chancellor of  Germany  for 7 years,  and today she was reconfirmed as leader of her party, the conservative CDU, by the largest majority she has ever received:  80% of the party delegates voted for her.  Even the most conservative wing of the conservative party for whom she is too liberal, admitted that they would be “blöd” (nuts) to not give her their full support in the upcoming election, which they will certainly win, (but by how much is unclear).  In a stunning display of solidarity, the leader of the even more conservative Bavarian sister party (CSU), which has usually been  at odds with anyone governing in Berlin (no wonder when you experience  the splendid condition of the Bavarian capital München compared to rundown bankrupt Berlin) admitted that his party will be a “purring cat” during  the pre-election months, content to snuggle up to the warmth provided by Mama Angela.  Now that is charisma.

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Hommage a Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

Posted May 27, 2012 on 12:09 am | In the category Germany | by Mackenzie Brothers

The obiuaries tended to speak of the end of an era when the greatest German singer died last week and it is easy to see why.  In many ways he encapsulated the experience of being  German in the  twentieth century like few others.  He was born just before he qualified for what Helmut Kohl called “Die Gnade der späten Geburt”, the mercy of having been born too late to have been forced to make some kind of  decision on what to do about the German catastrophe of World War Two.  As  a late teenager he was conscripted into an  army and a war that his family hated – the Nazis had killed his brother as part of their eugenics campaign – and ended up serving briefly and harmlessly on the Eastern Front before being captured just before the end of the war and sent off to allied POW camps.

From then on his life became a triumphal march through the world of European, and especially German, music, something the Germans could be proud of after their miserable performance in history.   He rarely left Europe and never sang at the Met,  as he dominated the repertoire of German song as no one else will ever do, while makin relatively rare forays onto the opera stage as well, mainly in Munich and Berlin.  While the obituaries focussed on the monumental scale of his Lieder recordings, those who saw his on-stage dramatic performances of characters as different as the wily comic Gianni Schicchi and the towering tormented Lear may well consider these life-encompssing portrayals to be his most enduring performances.  There will probably always be a new singer who can come close to the dramatic sensitivity  of his Lieder singing, if not at all to the scope of his repertoire (as the wonderfully professional and splendidly-voiced Christian Gerhaher recently displayed  in his Vancouver recital) – there is nobody out there who can come close to the staggering King Lear he created after personally commissioning the work from Aribert Reimann.  Though there are excerpts on DVD of this  shattering performance in Das Bayrische  Nationaltheater, you really had to be there to experience it.  And it may well be that  for that reason there will probably never be another performer like him, as he had experienced the deep depths and the splendid triumphs of  modern life  first-hand  and had found a way to bring it across unforgettably to a vast audience for more than half a century.

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Save a tear for Germany

Posted February 15, 2012 on 1:57 am | In the category Europe, Germany | by Mackenzie Brothers

Pity poor Germany.  It made such a mess of the twentieth  century that it just can’t do anything right in the twenty-first.  The truth is it is about the only country doing anything right in Europe these days, but no matter what it does, the folks it tries to help dig out Granddad’s old war memorabilia, and suggest that  that help is just another sign of Germany’s desire to laud its over poor European neighbours.  The passengers going down with  the Titanic curse the  German life boats ,that actually function,  rail on about how the war that ended almost 70 years ago was  making a comeback and of course don’t mean a word of it.  Places like Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain and even Italy don’t really want to go under and drown  and of course they expect the Germans to come to their rescue, but first they’s like to remind you of how nasty their rescuers are.

It’s an odd time in good old Europe.  Athens burns in protest, Portugal and Spain provide no jobs for their youth in protest, Cyprus makes no progress towards becoming a united and perhaps then viable island state, Italy votes for a leadership that is beyond mockery, and Hungary one beyond tolerance and even France displays an unheard-of humility in the face of the only European economy that works.  And they all expect the German rescue boat to haul them back on board.  God help them if the Germans decide they are not worth the effort.

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Auschwitz 77 years later

Posted January 29, 2012 on 11:44 pm | In the category Europe, Genocide, Germany, Human Rights | by Mackenzie Brothers

Exactly 77 years ago the Red Army entered a large relatively  new settlement built outside the old Polish garnison city of Oswiecim and discovered the relics of  Auschwitz,the largest of more than half a dozen Nazi killing centres.  In the Auschwitz Protocol its genocidal purpose had been described in detail almost a year earlier by the Slovak Jew Rudy Vrba , who was the first and one of the very few who ever had escaped from it.  But about  a million others had been murdered in that place, mostly Jews, but also hundreds of thousands of others who for political, sexual or ethnic reasons were deemed unworthy of remaining alive.  This was decreed  by a murderous government with its centre in Berlin.  In the German parliament in the same city on the anniversary of that day, a 91 year old Polish-born Jewish man named Marcel Reich-Ranicki who became Germany’s leading literary critic reminded the elected members of that parliament about what that previous political system had done to him  personally, to his family, to his culture and ultimately to the reputation of Germany  throughout the world.

It is a sign of the  sea change in the public position of Germany that no one in that parliament made up of parties ranging from deeply conservative to near-communist expressed anything but  unanimous approval of a motion that Germany undertake a united effort  to make sure such an event could not happen again.  The reason  for this unanimity was however deeply unsettling and very clear.  Over the last decade a terrorist group based in Zwickau in the former East Germany had been murdering ethnic Turks (along with a Greek and a  policewoman)who ran small businesses in Germany at a rate of about one  a year.  This came as a shock to the average German population as it recalled an  evil past that almost all Germans dearly wished had faded into history.  It was even more of a shock when it became clear that  the trio of murderers could not have remained undetected for a decade without a substantial  support group that many suspect  included some police.  Keep tuned and see whether Germany, with a powerful prime minister who is definitely untouched by any suspicions of  having had anything to do with those Nazi events, can combat this threat with efficiency, power and justice.

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