Monday, February 28, 2005

Here's a good article on Germany's Red-Green Romeo, Joshka Fischer, but one with no mention of the scandal I describe below. Good enough, though.

I should mention, by the way, that Joshi has battled with his weight over the years (he's currently a bit puffy). When he was a simple member of the Bundestag, back inna day when the capital was Bonn, Birgit met him on a jog along the Rhein. He was an avid jogger at the time.

So, I live with someone who has seen him in jogging shorts.

When I was in Mexico, I rarely talked about Mexican politics on the blog (perhaps never). That was mostly because I had very little background in Mexican history and was all but useless in the Spanish language until near the end of my time there. Well, maybe not mostly. The main reason was probably because I pay more attention to events in the US or things caused by the US.

The same pattern has followed me to Germany. The difference, however, is that I know quite a lot about Germany and my German language skills are more than adequate. I actually keep up with things here. Why I don't blog about it, I know not. Perhaps because most of the day to day stuff is pretty esoteric and of little concern to anyone outside Germany. Perhaps because I realize (or suspect) that my few regular readers don't much care. In any event, there is something going on which may end up being pretty important AND smells quite sinister.

Basically, a few weeks ago it dribbled out that some 100,000 folks from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are alleged to have gotten curiously easy entry visas for Germany in the last couple of years. This group, goes the story, included a number of mafia types, prostitutes, forced prostitutes, drug dealers, mafia-type prostitutes (and forced mafia prostitutes), and mafia-type drug-dealing prostitutes. In other words, the sort of folks most countries would welcome, because they are probably lots of fun, but Germany shuns.

Step Two: a member of the Green Party (which is the junior partner in the governing coalition) was hooked to this scandal through a connection he had to a seemingly shady travel agent. The member resigned from his responsibilities but admitted nothing (the travel agent denies all as well, and it goes without saying that the mafia-type-drug-dealing-forced prostitute contingent is keeping mum).

Step Three: a media and rightwing-political drumbeat has been trying to hang this around the neck of the foreign minister, Joschka Fischer (who is also essentially the leader of the Greens and is deputy Chancellor).

Evidence? None so far. At least nothing really tangible.

This, to me, smells very much like an American scandal, and I want to go on ahead and plant my flag on Mount International Rightwing Conspiracy.

Here's why: Fischer is (or was, until the scandal got legs) far and away the most popular politican in the country. He was so popular that, a few years ago, when photos came out from his (relative) youth as an anarchist in Frankfurt in the '70s in which he was *actually in the act of kicking a cop who was laying on the sidewalk*, folks shrugged and said "That was then, this is now." He was, in other words, untouchable. The Right, embodied by the CDU/CSU party, would LOVE to take Fischer down because as he goes, so goes the Greens (they think), and so goes the coalition, and so goes Schröder's government, and so comes their return to power (they lost in 1998, at the end of the scandal-riddled Kohl administration).

This new kerfluffle has all the classic hallmarks of a right-wing smear. You have 1) inefficient and/or criminally negligent government, 2) hypocrisy [in the form of it being Greens at fault], 3) corruption, 4) mafia, 5) drugs, 6) foreigners, 7) foreigners from THE EAST. In other words: too perfect. Very Rovian.

Of course, no one has yet come up with any motive for Fischer's alleged misdeeds.

My prediction: IF the Greens get it together and go on the offensive with this story, Fischer will shake it off, but if they continue to handle this like they have so far (and Fischer did give a speech the other day which seems to show that he's changing tack) the SPD and Greens will lose the next big state election (right here in North-Rhine Westphalia) in May (?) and probably not recover in time to win the next national election (whenever those turn out to be).

In the mean time, keep your eyes open for American rightwingers talking about this. I smell a Rove. Seriously.

SPIEGEL ONLINE has good coverage of this, but it is in German. Try some British paper, I guess.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Just below, I said that : "'Billion Dollar Babies' might suck ass ('Mystic Rhythms' was definitely overrated: and what is with Clint Eastwood and his rocksong movie names?)."

I didn't mean to suggest that BDB really sucks ass. I meant "might" in the sense that it, as the frontrunner, might be so bad that "Ray" or "Sideways" (or whatever else is nominated) might win by default.

However, A Reliable Source has informed me that BDB is quite good.

I am prepared to accept that. I haven't seen it yet, and have no idea when it will come out here.

And Hillary Swank is a fox.

And "Mystic Rhythms" was good, until the parade scene. That was so bad that it made the rest of the movie overrated.

Bokeem Woodbine, by the way, has been in lots of things unfamiliar to me. I've seen him in "The Rock" (which I hated so bad that I barely recall it) and "Dead Presidents". I must remember him from DP, cuz I lurrrrve that movie. Way underrated. It also has a wonderful soundtrack AND was one reason for my praise of Larenz Tate, below.

Mr Woodbine was also in an episode of the X-Files. So, you know. That. That tickles my nerdbone.

[ETA: he was also in "Crooklyn", which I loved. I don't remember him in it, though.]

It seems he is in a bit of an action rut. I think he has "charasma" (as the weirdo said in David Lee Roth's "Just a Gigilo" video) and should get better roles.

I am listening to (and almost actually) "Dancing With Myself". Which rocks. And is about masturbation.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Quickly now:

The MostImportantMovieAwardsShow will be on tomorrow night. I find myself in one of those rare moments of homesickness, for 'tis only in the Homeland (well, not ONLY) that I can see the Oscars for free, in English, at a reasonable hour. I'd like to see it. I usually watch the Oscars, though not the other awards shows, and since Chris Rock is hosting I expect this one will be particularly worth watching. Sigh.

It is, of course, a movie awards show. So here's what I know about movies. Of the nominated films, I have seen a grand total of three.

"Supersize Me" was nominated, right? I liked it a bunch. Good stuff. Check it out.

"Sideways" was nice, but unless the rest of the field just sucks donkey balls I wouldn't give it anything beyond best screenplay or some such. Everything is nice about it, but it was more "Seinfeld" than "Citizen Kane".

We saw "Ray" last night. Bearing in mind that I've seen a grand total of Zero other nominees in action, I would give Best Actor to Jamie Foxx. He was really impressive. His German was flawless! (heh) I mean, I saw a dubbed version, so I can only guess that the got the voice right, but he was physically very impressive. I liked all the other actors in that movie, too, come to think of it. Remind me to IMDB Bokene Woodbine. He played "Fathead" in "Ray" and I know I've seen him in something else and liked him, but can't remember what. Also, why is Larenz Tate not a huge star? (don't answer that until you read the link below)

Having said all that, biography pics aren't my favorite genre. I am therefore disinclined to root for it as best picture. This was better than most, I reckon, and certainly about an interesting person, but I'm not sure if it was "best picture" material.

This review, Race and 'Ray', makes a good case for the overall art of the film, however.

And, of course, I have seen none of the other nominated films. "Billion Dollar Babies" might suck ass ("Mystic Rhythms" was definitely overrated: and what is with Clint Eastwood and his rocksong movie names?).

Here's one thing that I may be wrong about but if I'm wrong it wouldn't change my overall opinion of Ray: several scenes take place in what I swear they said was Houston. Those scenes were filmed in New Orleans. So? I mean, there are swathes of the N.O. area which bear an unpleasant resemblance of the Houston area. Ahhhhhh, but here is my problem, and I'll state it in a form all potential or actual filmakers among my readership (!) might find useful:


. . . such as THE FUCKING MISSISSIPPI RIVER BRIDGE! Which ain't in Houston. Cuz the San Jacinto River? Not really very big.

I hope I'm wrong: I hope the movie actually said New Orleans and it just sounded like Houston. They were speaking German, after all.

That took longer than I thought it would.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hurray for the New York Times!

Empty Town: The Germans Bush Wasn't Able to See: ". . . the isolation of Mr. Bush from everyday Germans seemed a metaphor for how far apart Germans and Americans have drifted."

Yes. Or rather, No. Germans, in general, hate Americans like Dubyah and the things they do, but I wouldn't say the people have drifted apart (everyday life in the two countries is probably more similar now than it has been in decades). Anyway, I have yet to get a single bit of guff for being an American. Mind you, I am REALLY cool, so I prolly throw 'em off.

So Dubyah was in Germany yesterday. I didn't go see him. I thought about going down there, but when my invitation didn't arrive I decided not to bother. Who knows? Maybe he really doesn't want to see me anymore.

By the way: the NYT notes that Dubyah called the German chancellor "Gerhard", so things may not be all bad. Horse feathers. He says "Gerhard" (putting too much emphasis on the last syllable) because he can't pronounce "Schröder".

There was a decent protest, which I really should have attended. (In my defense: Mainz is several hours [I have time] and dozens of Euros [I don't have money] away from Wuppertal. Still. I should have gone.) Anyway, especially when one considers that Mainz isn't all that big (and so it would need outside agitators), it was a work day, and it was cold and snowing, the turnout was good. The cops say around 7 or 8 k at the main protest site and the organizers say around 12 k.

The only real excitement (and it was well covered on ARD television) was produced by Greenpeace. Two brave planetlovers sped out into the Rhine in a rubber dinghy with an outboard motor just in time to hold up a sign as Dubyah's motorcade crossed the bridge. They got busted, of course, but dig it: it was prolly 25 degrees out (fahrenheit) yesterday and water is unfriendly in such weather AND the Rhine is not a small river AND the Rhine is a swift river AND Mainz is where the Main joins the Rhine, so the river is a bit bigger and swifter than normal in that area. Add it all together and you have a recipe for a glorious death by drowning. Greenpeace rocks.

Dubyah sucks. I hope he had a shitty time. As Dog is my witness, I hope never to be as close to him again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Iran to aid Syria against threats!!!!!!

Yes. Things are going really well. Yep. Mmmm Hmmm.

In other news, the Kyoto Protocols have gone into effect. Guess which dipshit, hick-ass, turd-gurgling, dumbfuck, energy-guzzling, pollution-spewing industrial-powerhouse country didn't sign!

An I think to mahself, what a wonderful woild.

This is a pretty funky story. I would link to the Tulsa World, just to protest its no-linking "law", but it is such a cage liner I can't even be bothered to look it up. Still, worth mentioning.

Fuck the Tulsa World (although Tulsa, the town, has merits).

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

So this is the first comment I've seen yet which more or less squares with my position vis a vis Ward Churchill.

My thinking has been that Churchill's biggest tactical error was dropping the Eichmann bomb and just letting it sit there. He should, I reckon, have said something about Hannah Arendt's observations on the banality of evil, at least when first called out on it. Sort of the equivalent of saying "read a book, fuckers" to his critics. I wasn't entirely comfortable with the analogy, but hadn't really considered it far enough to decide why (because, um, I don't much care).

What the article I just mentioned says, however, is something I hadn't quite thought out, which is that his analogy has some pretty big logical holes in it. Good catch on the author's part.

Still, as she says, the man could have called the 911 victims "little Saurons" and the perpetrators "wittle snuggle bunny wunnies" while doing a belly dance to the tune of "One Tin Soldier", and he would STILL be well within his rights as a citizen and as a faculty member to do so.

(The author didn't say it quite like that, of course, but our hearts are beating as one, at least.)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Nothing says "Happy Valentine's Day" like gay outrage over penguin sex test.

A little while back I mentioned that I was troubled by the memory hole treatment given Michael Moore's public position vis a vis this year's Oscar campaign. Moore, I said, had said he wasn't intending to shoot for one (and you really do have to shoot for one: these things don't just fall from the heavens).

Clearly, no one reads my blog:

"THE day the left died in Hollywood, surely, was the day that a few too many Queer Eyes had their way with Michael Moore as he set off on his Oscar campaign. The baseball cap and 1970's leisure ensemble gave way to quasi-Libeskind eyeglasses and spiky hair that screamed 'I am worthy of a cameo on 'Entourage.' ' But not worthy of an Oscar. 'Fahrenheit 9/11' got zero nominations, leaving the Best Picture race to five apolitical movies. "

(The article is actually about [Alice Cooper]'s "Million Dollar Baby")

here's what Michael Moore said, back in September of the oh four, regarding the Oscars.

Here are the lyrics to [Clint Eastwood]'s classic song, "Billion Dollar Babies".

Please note that Chris is back in the blog saddle, at Gorilla 365.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Happy Ass Wednesday!

A few years ago, while I was a teacher at WVU, I was attending a thing of some sort. One of my students stopped off to say that she was sorry about not being home studying but she wanted to see the thing. I said (in total poker face) "You have to set your priorities: Which is more important? Your grade? Or this lecture?" Her eyes got big. I revealed that I was just kidding.

We chatted about the thing.

A few minutes later she said she would also be missing class on Ass Wednesday as she was a devout Cathoholic and would be attending service. I said "seriously: you NEED to set priorities. This is not a game, you know."

You should have seen her face.

I was totally cool for a couple of seconds (long enough) and gave in and told her I was kidding. She had a physical reaction.

It was awesome.

In those couple of seconds you could SEE her thinking "Wow. Did my teacher just invite me to choose between the Catholic Church and his history class? My beliefs and my grade? How do I answer? Which IS more important?!?!?!"

Christians are funny.

By the way, I link here to a classic Gregblog: Those aren't ashes!

(I no longer live there.)

By the way (2), I just heard that Hakeem, the Dream, Olajuwon has been implicated in taking money and then giving said money to people who may have given money to people who may have given it to people who may have used it for the purposes of Terrah.

I had Etonic's "The Dream" basketball shoes back in the day, and my feet still miss them. Those were some good fucking shoes. All else is meaningless.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Although I'm not in the Homeland, I keep up with events there via the Internets and Air America Radio. I have noticed a recent uptick (I'm listening to a caller to Randi Rhodes right now, in fact) in the "its my money, so why can't I shove it up a hog's ass and holler soooeeee?" argument because of the Social Security question.

Here's what I've got to say about that.

It (FICA tax) is NOT your money. Here's why: You never had it. You never had a chance to have it.

This is, I think, the proper way to view all taxes which are taken directly from your salary or wages before you get paid. YOUR money is the money you actually are given. The NET (plus any optional stuff you pay out from the GROSS) is yours.

Let's say I am an employer (fancy that!). I hire you to work for me, promising a gross income of 10,000 clams per year. I am bound, by law, to take 1000 clams from that gross wage and send it off to the King of Town, however. This means you get only 9,000 clams. THAT is YOUR MONEY. You earned that. No one took anything away from you. Those 1000 clams were NEVER YOURS. You couldn't have them, ever. You lost NOTHING.

No one lives off a gross income. Everyone lives off of the net. No one has ever "earned" a gross income, in the sense that no one ever worked for, and got, a gross income. You, they, and (theoretically) I get the net ONLY. Ever.

Let's say it is your birthday. You are having a party. I baked "you" a cake. Does anyone (except perhaps Eric Cartman) really think of that whole cake as YOURS? No. The party guests all get a piece of cake. YOUR cake is the piece(s) you get to eat. That is your "net" cake.

Sure, you could refuse to share the cake (you earned it, after all: the cake was baked solely because of your birthday) but the penalty would be a broken party and pissed off guests. Similarly, there are ways to avoid, in collusion with your employer, paying FICA tax. Those ways are illegal, and the penalty can be unpleasant (as with the cake).



(I repeat, this only applies to the involuntary things pulled out of the gross. Things like whatever sort of voluntary retirement plan or profit sharing or insurance you may have fall under a different tortured analogy which you have not yet earned.)

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Rio De Janiero. New Orleans. Cologne/Köln/Colonia.

Mardi Gras / (K)Carneval is a big deal in the Rhine region, especially Köln.

I was there last night.

After several hours of enjoying the quaint German folk tradition at the center of this celebration, I went on auto pilot. I was out on the street, suddenly. I was hungry. I ate a Döner Kebab. I rode the streetcar/subway without paying. I checked the train schedule for Köln/Wuppertal. I was in no condition to wait for the next one. I hopped a waiting train to Düsseldorf, thinking I might get a better connection from there (it is closer to Wuppertal). Wasn't awake for the whole trip to Düsseldorf, but did manage to make my stop. I didn't get a better connection. I had some coffee and a muffin. A woman asked me directions and I told her I didn't know. She was upset with me for not wanting to help her. I figured out that she expected me to help her because I was dressed as a cop (costume for Karneval). I said, "Lady, this is a costume". She got it, then thought for a second. "So can you tell me how to get to Rath anyway?" I laughed and shrugged.

I got home a couple or three hours after I left the bar.

I had entered the bar with two friends. One got home an hour or so after me with a cut hand. The other is, presumably, still in Köln.

Alaarf! Helaü!

Menge lasse der Dom in Kölle, denn da gehörder hin! Da Greggie will ihn stehlen: Det mäht doch keene Sinn!

Friday, February 04, 2005

We're well into Black History Month, so it is fitting to mention that Max Schmeling, the German boxer who famously lost to Joe Louis during the Nazi 30s, has died at the age of 99. Mr Schmeling apparently later became good friends with Mr Louis, and seemed mindful of his important place in history.

That was some cool boxing. Talk about a Rocky moment!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Birgit and I attended a very large party a week and a half ago and something happened there that I vowed to mention in the blog.

The DJ played "Ride Like the Wind" by Christopher Cross and a few dozen people danced, and it wasn't ironic dancing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A few days ago I announced my belated New Year's resolution. It was To Rock.

Just to keep you posted:

- today I met, and may soon be employed by, an actual Britpunk from Back In The Day

- I just put on the iTunes for the evening. Song one? "Fat Bottomed Girls" by Queen. Song two? "American Life" by Primus.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I guess all I can do is sigh about this one. Had to happen at some point, I suppose, but it is still a shame.

Good news, however, was that not only did I meet a fellow today who claims to have performed with Eddie and the Hot Rods, the Damned, and Captain Sensible, among others and to have known members of numerous other important punk bands (including the Clash) personally but also that this fellow may soon be my boss.

He may hire me in coming days, and one of the things he noticed on my resume was that I had done a presentation on the history of punk rock (hence the conversation).

Good luck to me?