Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I have no idea how it's playing in the US media, but in case it isn't coming through, check out Dave Lindorff's the Real Story of the German Elections. It's pretty much on the money.

Basically, Germany is struggling with a transition towards US-style capitalism. It is far from there yet and it may not stay on that path. One piece of evidence in the struggle is the 11% unemployment figure Lindorff, sadly, repeats without analysis.

Basically, around half of the unemployed in Germany are in what used to be the German Democratic Republic (i.e. East Germany). Most of the rest are concentrated in pockets like the Ruhr region (near me, basically). Most of the unemployed are in their 40s or older. Most of the unemployed, in other words, are folks who used to work for the steel, coal, and similar heavy industries. Their jobs are gone. Their jobs will never come back. There is next to nothing any government can do short of forcing these folks to go work for Taco Bell (I say that because of Michael Moore's AWESOME "Roger and Me"). Since Germany has no Taco Bells, we have a problem.

Only the Linkspartei, by the way, and the handful of other far left parties have really talked about this.

Merkel is done anyway, I reckon. I can't imagine how she will form a government. I still think Schröder will pull one out of his ass.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Dude. The German election has funky results. BBC NEWS has good coverage in ze englisch.

Here's a crazy thought: SPD and Greens, as before, with special guest . . . the Christian Social Union (CSU). This is the Bavarian branch of the main conservative party but it is a separate party with slightly different intersts, goals, and power structures. Its leader (Edmund Stoiber) wants power and is no big fan of Merkel or Westerwelle.

It just. Might. Work.

Not that it would be good, mind you.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

You have got to be kidding me:

How the penguin's life story inspired the US religious right

What is going on?

In other news: the German election is underway. Votes are being cast. The results will come in this evening (except for the Dresden area, which will be delayed because a candidate died two weeks ago). Exciting?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I have mentioned to Birgit, on more than one occaision, that I have this here blog. She never thought about it until today, though, and has just looked at it the first time. She was not pleased by the fact that I don't say much about her and say nothing much about us. She isn't mollified by my point that this isn't much of a diary. So I posted the thing below, in the hope that she would realize that my lack of Birgit-related material has nothing to do with her and everything to do with the nature of this forum. It didn't work. She just now mocked me, as she sashayed back from the kitchen with grapes in her hand, with the remark "I love grapes".

So. She can kiss my ass.

I do love her, though.

I love Birgit.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I should add, lest ye doubt my German election prediction, that I correctly predicted that someone would win the Japanese election. Also, I predict that we will have a result in the Norwegian election.

I've said this to several folks and so I may as well say it with the puter:

the SPD/Green coalition will win the election on 18 September. They will not only win, but they will also increase their majority from 3 seats to 10.

So there.

Basically, the recent polls indicate that things are going Schröder's way, but I'm thinking beyond the polls. I think that the average German political commentator (with whom I am far out of step on this) is thinking in terms of *parties* rather than personalities. I think Germany has made a quiet but clear transition from party politics to personality politics and, therefore, think the strong personalities of Schröder (SPD) and Fischer (Green) will push them over the weaker personality of Merkel (CDU). The FDP leader (Westerwelle) has been all but absent from the tv campaign, for some reason, and this hurts the conservative coalition chances.

(I suspect Westerwelle is laying low in no small part because, as an openly gay man, he's afraid of driving away the far right types his party courts now and then.)

So. You heard it here first.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Awesome. Scott McClellan, the Mouth of Sauron, apparently said today, in response to Fidel Castro's offer of help for Katrina victims, that the U.S. wishes Castro would offer freedom to his people.

This reminds me. There's a legend that when the Moscow subway was completed in the 50s the Soviets invited a team of engineers and architects from the West to check it out. It was awesome: well-planned, beautiful, big, everything. Finally, a visitor from the U.S. said "this is incredible! Better than any i've ever seen! I do have one question, though: where are all the passengers?" The Soviet host snapped back: "But, but, but IN THE SOUTH YOU HAVE LYNCHING!"

I gather that part of the bureaucratic and political strategy for avoiding responsibility for the New Orleans debacle is to repeat the "no one could have anticipated" line. Sure, most reasonably educated folks aren't going to buy it, and no one who lived anywhere near New Orleans would, but there is a sucker born every minute and that's the audience.

If you want to talk to such folks, point not to the N.O. Times Picayune articles of last year. Point not to the special report in National Geographic magazine a few years ago. Point rather to this:

National Geographic's Cyclone! (1996)

It is a nice little documentary film about hurricanes and tornadoes and explains how they work, what they do, and what they have done. The benediction is a computer animated look at the "nightmare scenario": New Orleans hit straight on by a decent-sized hurricane. In the video you can see film of what happened last week.

The film is 9 years old.

I taped my copy off television back in the day. I was living in Hattiesburg, Mississppi, at the time.

In related news, I have heard Barbara Bush comment that it is "scary" that so many of the refugees are contemplating staying in Texas and that they've got it pretty good there in the shelters. Given that Bar is and was always a perfect symbol of the ruling class, grandmotherly propaganda notwithstanding, I will only comment as follows:

1) The refugees have been traumatized and are so desperate that they think Houston is nice, and that IS scary.
2) (but seriously) Last night on German TV a young woman and her daughter both said that they were happier in the shelters than in N.O., because in the shelters they were surrounded by people who CARED WHETHER THEY LIVED OR DIED, unlike in N.O., where it was every man for himself. This I take as a comment on the abject poverty they left behind. Fuck Barbara Bush BUT it really is true that there are lots of people in the US for whom a cot on the floor of the fucking Astrodome and a bag of MREs is puttin' on the Ritz. And that is a crime.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


I found out from Chris that our friend Marie and her family (recently of Slidel, Louisiana) are alive and staying with another friend, Adrienne, in Birmingham. That's good news. The bad news is, unsurprisingly, that they have lost everything.

I just turned on the itunes and the first song up was "Jambalaya (on the Bayou)" by Hank Williams. The second song? "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey.

The German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, just had a debate with his challenger, Angela Merkel. I think he beat her pretty bad, but I'm not sure how the average German will take it. One interesting thing from the debate was that, given the chance, Merkel was unable to bring herself to comment in any way about what is happening in the US right now, whereas Schröder used it to make a point about the need for a robust and decisive government. Another thing was that Schröder clearly ruled out any chance of a coalition with the new left party (die Linke). This means he's gambling on an absolute victory. He's bold, I'll give him that.

It could be that Google News is purposely hiding the story about how the Vatican has taken a hand in providing massive aid to the victims (enter Katrina and Pope in the search field). Benny the Rat did say that he is praying for them, though.

There are, ahem, lots of Catholics in the stricken region. I'm sure the prayers make them feel better.

When I contemplate how much money was spent on World Youth Day recently here in Germany (Cologne) and contrast it with how much doesn't seem to be being spent on the Katrina victims I feel bile rising.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Obviously the scathing was much worse than original reports indicated. In fact, Scott just pointed out to me that even Hattiesburg, Mississippi (home of the University of Southern Mississippi, which granted me diplomae), is fucked. I checked the local "newspaper" (the Hattiesburg American) two days ago and things didn't look so bad. This would not be the first time that sad rag has been a bit off.


And now the Guardian is reporting that Fats Domino is missing.

The more I find out the more angry and sad I get. Heads must roll for this. Attention must be paid.