Posted on April 22nd, 2013 No comments
A while back in an online discussion with a German “Green,” I pointed out that, if Germany shut down its nuclear plants, coal plants would have to remain in operation to take up the slack. He was stunned that I could be so obtuse. Didn’t I realize that the lost nuclear capacity would all be replaced by benign “green” energy technology? Well, it turns out things didn’t quite work out that way. In fact, the lost generating capacity is being replaced by – coal.
Germany is building new coal-fired power plants hand over fist, with 26 of them planned for the immediate future. According to Der Spiegel, the German news magazine that never misses a trick when it comes to bashing nuclear, that’s a feature, not a bug. A recent triumphant headline reads, “Export Boom: German Coal Electricity Floods Europe.” Expect more of the same from the home of Europe’s most pious environmentalists. Germany has also been rapidly expanding its solar and wind capacity recently thanks to heavy state subsidies, but the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, especially in Germany. Coal plants are required to fill in the gaps – lots of them. Of course, it would be unprofitable to let them sit idle when wind and solar are available, so they are kept going full blast. When the power isn’t needed in Germany, it is sold abroad, serving as a useful prop to Germany’s export fueled economy.
Remember the grotesque self-righteousness of Der Spiegel and the German “Greens” during the Kyoto Treaty debates at the end of the Clinton administration? Complying with the Kyoto provisions cost the Germans nothing. They had just shut down the heavily polluting and grossly unprofitable industries in the former East Germany, had brought large numbers of new gas-fired plants on line thanks to increasing gas supplies from the North Sea fields, and had topped it off with a lame economy in the 90′s compared to the booming U.S. Their greenhouse gas emissions had dropped accordingly. Achieving similar reductions in the U.S. wouldn’t have been a similar “freebie.” It would have cost tens of thousands of jobs. The German “Greens” didn’t have the slightest problem with this. They weren’t interested in achieving a fair agreement that would benefit all. They were only interested in striking pious poses.
Well, guess what? Times have changed. Last year U.S. carbon emissions were at their lowest level since 1994, and down 3.7% from 2011. Our emissions are down 7.7% since 2006, the largest drop among major industrial states on the planet. German emissions were up at least 1.5% last year, and probably more like 2%. Mention this to a German “Green,” and he’s likely to mumble something about Germany still being within the Kyoto limits. That’s quite true. Germany is still riding the shutdown of what news magazine Focus calls “dilapidated, filthy, communist East German industry after the fall of the Berlin Wall,” to maintain the facade of environmental “purity.”
That’s small comfort to her eastern European neighbors. Downwind from Germany’s coal-fired plants, their “benefit” from her “green” policies is acid rain, nitrous oxide laced smog, deadly particulates that kill and sicken thousands and, last but not least, a rich harvest of radioactive fallout. That’s right, Germany didn’t decrease the radioactive hazard to her neighbors by shutting down her nuclear plants. She vastly increased it. Coal contains several parts per million each of radioactive uranium and thorium. These elements are harmless enough – if kept outside the body. The energetic alpha particles they emit are easily stopped by a normal layer of skin. When that happens, they dump the energy they carry in a very short distance, but, since skin is dead, it doesn’t matter. It’s an entirely different matter when they dump those several million electron volts of energy into a living cell – such as a lung cell. Among other things, that can easily derange the reproductive equipment of the cell, causing cancer. How can they reach the lungs? Very easily if the uranium and thorium that emit them are carried in the ash from a coal-fired plant. A typical coal-fired plant releases about 5 tons of uranium and 12 tons of thorium every year. The German “Greens” have no problem with this, even though they’re constantly bitching about the relatively miniscule release of uranium from U.S. depleted uranium munitions. Think scrubber technology helps? Guess again! The uranium and thorium are concentrated in the ash, whether it ends up in the air or not. They can easily leach into surrounding cropland and water supplies.
The last time there was an attempt to move radioactive waste to the Gorleben storage facility within Germany, the “Greens” could be found striking heroic poses as saviors of the environment all along the line, demonstrating, tearing up tracks, and setting police vehicles on fire. Their “heroic” actions forced the shutdown of Germany’s nuclear plants. The “gift” (German for “poison”) of their “heroic” actions to Germany’s neighbors came in the form of acid rain, smog, and airborne radiation. By any reasonable standard, coal-fired plants are vastly more dangerous and damaging to the environment than the nuclear facilities they replaced.
It doesn’t matter to Germany’s “Greens.” The acid rain, the radiation, the danger of global warming they always pretend to be so concerned about? It doesn’t matter. For them, as for the vast majority of other environmental zealots worldwide, the pose is everything. The reality is nothing.
Posted on March 25th, 2013 No comments
Germany is plagued by an unusually large number per capita of pathologically pious zealots of the type who like to strike heroic poses as saviors of humanity. The number may even approach the levels found in the USA. They definitely take the cake when it comes to the subspecies of the tribe whose tastes run to nuclear alarmism. They came out of the woodwork in droves the last time an attempt was made to move radioactive waste via rail to the storage facility in Gorleben, tearing up the tracks, peacefully smearing a police vehicle with tar and setting it on fire, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Now, in keeping with that tradition, an article just appeared in the German version of New Scientist, according to which those evil Americans are actually planning to restart the production of (shudder) plutonium.
Entitled The Return of Plutonium and written by one Helmut Broeg, the article assumes a remarkable level of stupidity on the part of its readers. Mimicking Der Spiegel, Germany’s number one news magazine, its byline is more sensational than the article that follows, based on the (probably accurate) assumption that that’s as far as most consumers of online content will read. Here’s the translation:
The USA stopped producing plutonium 25 years ago. In order to preserve the ability to launch deep space missions, they will resume the production of the highly poisonous and radioactive material.
Only in the body of the article do we learn that the particular isotope that will be produced is plutonium 238, which, unlike plutonium 239, is useless for making nuclear explosives. As it happens, Pu-238 is the ideal material for powering thermoelectric generators such as that used on the Curiosity Mars rover because it decays primarily via emission of alpha particles (helium nuclei) and has a half life of 87.7 years. That means that its decay products are mostly stopped in the material itself, generating a lot of heat in the process (because of the short half life, or time it take half of the material to decay), which can be converted to electricity using devices with no moving parts. The world supply of the material is currently very short, and more is urgently needed to power future deep space missions.
All this is very sinister, according to Broeg. He quotes Heinz Smital, who, we are informed, is an “atomic expert” at Greenpeace, that, “the crash of such a satellite could contaminate large areas with radioactivity. Don’t look now, Mr. Smital, but if you’re really worried about radioactive contamination by alpha emitters like Pu-238, you might want to reconsider building all the coal plants that Germany is currently planning to replace the nuclear facilities it has decided to shut down. Coal typically contains several parts per million of radioactive uranium and thorium. A good-sized plant will release 5 tons of uranium and 10 tons of thorium into the environment each year. Estimated releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium. That amount has gone up considerably in the intervening years. The cumulative radiation now covering the earth from these sources dwarfs anything that might conceivably result from the crash of a rocket with a Pu-238 power source, no matter what implausible assumptions one chose to make about how its containment would fail, how it would somehow enter the atmosphere at hypersonic speed so as to (optimize) its dispersion, etc. Of course, the radioactive isotopes released from burning coal will also be with us for billions of years, not just the few hundred it takes for Pu-238 to decay.
But wait! Dispersal of Pu-238 isn’t the only problem. There’s also (drum roll) the BOMB! Broeg drags in another “expert,” Moritz Kütt, a physicist at the Technical University of Darmstadt, who assures us that, “In the production of Pu-238, some Pu-239 is produced as well. As a matter of principle, that means the US is resuming the production of weapons-useful material.” Kütt goes on to ask what the world community would have to say if Iran announced that it would produce Pu-238 for a space mission?
To appreciate the level of gullibility it takes to swallow such “warnings,” one must spend a few minutes to check on how Pu-238 is actually produced. Generally, it is done by irradiating neptunium 237 from spent nuclear fuel with neutrons in a reactor. Occasionally the Np-237 captures a neutron, becoming Np-238. This, in turn emits a beta particle (electron), and is transmuted to Pu-238. It’s quite true that some of the Pu-238 will also capture a neutron, and become Pu-239. However, the amounts produced in this way would be vanishingly small compared to the amounts that could be produced in the same reactor by simply removing some of the fuel rods after a few months and chemically extracting the nearly pure Pu-239, which would not then have to be somehow separated from far greater quantities of highly radioactive Pu-238. In other words, if the world community learned that Iran had a nefarious plan to produce bomb material in the way suggested by Kütt, the reasonable immediate reaction would be a horse laugh, perhaps followed by sympathy for a people who were sufficiently stupid to adopt such a plan. As for the US deciding to replentish its stocks of bomb material in this way, the idea is more implausible than anything those good Germans, the brothers Grimm ever came up with. It only takes 4 kilos of Pu-239 to make a bomb, and we have tons of it on hand. In the unlikely event we wanted more, we would simply extract it from reactor fuel rods. The idea that we would ever prefer to attempt the separation of Pu-239 from Pu-238 instead is one that could only be concocted in the fevered imagination of a German “atomic expert.”
Posted on January 7th, 2013 No comments
Der Spiegel, Germany’s top news magazine, has been second to none in promoting green energy, striking pious poses over the U.S. failure to jump on the Kyoto bandwagon, and trashing nuclear energy. All this propaganda has succeeded brilliantly. Germany has a powerful Green Party and is a world leader in the production of wind and solar energy, the latter in a cloudy country, the lion’s share of which lies above the 50th parallel of latitude. Now the bill has come due. In 2012 German consumers paid more than 20 billion Euros for green energy that was worth a mere 2.9 billion on the open market. True to form, Der Spiegel has been churning out shrill condemnations of the high prices, as if it never had the slightest thing to do with promoting them in the first place. In an article entitled “Green Energy Costs Consumers More Than Ever Before,” we find, among other things, that,
The cost of renewable energy continues climbing year after year. At the beginning of the year it increased from 3.59 to 5.27 (Euro) cents per kilowatt hour. One of the reasons for the increase is solar energy: more new solar facilities were installed in Germany in 2012 than ever before. The drawback of the solar boom is that it drives up the production costs paid by consumers. The reason – green energy producers will receive guaranteed compensation for every kilowatt hour for the next 20 years.
As a result, German consumers saw their bills for electricity increase by an average of 12% at the beginning of 2013. The comments following the article are at least as revealing as its content. The environmental hubris of the population shows distinct signs of fading when tranlated into terms of cold, hard cash. Examples:
What a laugh! The consumers pay 17 billion Euros, and the producers receive 2.9 billion Euros. Conclusion: End the subsidies for solar facilities immediately!! It’s too bad that the pain of consumers – if the Green Party joins the government after the Bundestag election – won’t end, but will only get worse. Other than that, solar facilities belong in countries with significantly more hours of sunlight than Germany.
Those were the days, when (Green politician) Trittin told shameless lies to the public, claiming that the switch to green energy would only cost 1.5 Euros per household.
In ten years we’ll learn what the green energy lies are really going to cost us.
The real costs are even higher. When there’s no wind, or clouds cut off the sunlight, then the conventional energy sources held in reserve must make up the deficit; the oil, coal and brown coal energy plants. If production costs are calculated correctly, then their expense should be included in the price of green energy. All at once there is a jump from 17 billion to 25 billion Euros in the price we have to pay for the “favors” the Green-Red parties have done us.
Specious arguments about the supposedly comparable costs of the nuclear power plants Germany is in the process of shutting down are no longer swallowed with alacrity. For example, in response to the familiar old chestnut of citing exaggerated costs for decommissioning nuclear plants and storing the waste a commenter replies:
Hmmm, if nuclear energy is so expensive, why are so many countries in central Europe – for example, the Czech Republic – interested in nuclear power? Certainly not to breed actinides to build nuclear weapons in order to become “nuclear powers.” The cost of long term waste storage in terms of the energy produced only amounts to about 0.01 Euros per Kw/h. Even decommissioning expenses don’t add significantly to the overall cost… Let us split atoms, not hairs.
A “green” commenter suggests that the cleanup costs for the Fukushima reactors be automatically added to the cost of all reactors:
According to the latest figures for November 2012 for Fukushima: 100 billion Euros. Distributing this over the total energy production of 880,000 GWh (according to Wikipedia) that’s 11 cents per kilowatt hour. That amounts to twice the “prettified” cost of nuclear power (without insurance and without subsidies) of 5 cents per kilowatt hour. And even then the Japanese were lucky that the wind didn’t shift in the direction of Tokyo. But the 100 billion won’t be the last word.
Drawing the response from another reader:
Let’s see. Japanese nuclear power plants produce 7,656,400 GWh of energy. In comparison to economic costs in the high tens of billions, 100 billion suddenly doesn’t seem so unreasonable. It only adds 1.3 cent per KWh to the cost of nuclear energy. Peanuts. In Germany, renewables are currently costing an average of 18 cents per KWh. That translates to 100 billion in under four years. In other words, thanks to renewables, we have a Fukushima in Germany every four years.
In response to a remark about all the wonderful green jobs created, another commenter responds,
Jobs created? Every job is subsidized to the tune of 40,000 Euros; how, exactly, is that supposed to result in a net gain for the economy overall?? According to your logic, all we have to do to eliminate any level of unemployment is just subsidize it away. That’s Green politics for you.
Another unhappy power customer has noticed that, in addition to the hefty subsidy he’s paying for his own power, he has to finance his well-healed “green” neighbors rooftop solar array as well:
Whoever is surprised about the increases in the cost of electricity hasn’t been paying attention. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. At the moment the consumer is paying for the solar cells on his neighbor’s roof right along with his own electricity bill. Surprising? Who’s surprised?
It’s amazing how effective a substantial and increasing yearly hit to income can be in focusing the mind when it comes to assessing the real cost of green energy.
Posted on November 8th, 2012 No comments
The election is history and the unlucky soothsayers I referred to in my last post are eating crow. To paraphrase Billy Joel in one of his songs, “they didn’t have quite enough information.” For the edification and amusement of my readers, here are some of Tuesday’s losers.
Noted Republican strategist Karl Rove. He thought the polls suggested that more Republicans and fewer Democrats would show up to vote than in 2008. He was wrong.
In an article entitled, “Reflections on Mittmentum,” the ever hopeful Roger Kimball, who blogs for PJmedia, wrote the day before the election,
My own sense of the matter, as I have said here on many occasions, is that Mitt will not only win but win handily. The final tally, I suspect, will show Mitt the victor with something like 330 electoral votes.
The day after, a chastened Kimball wrote,
But I misread and misread badly both the mood of the country and the depth of support for Obama’s failed policies. I will doubtless get around to rejoining Ron in the battle, but a little hiatus for reflection will not come amiss.
That is certainly a sentiment his fellow prophets will agree on. Soothsayers over the water also got their comeuppance on Tuesday. Christopher Carr of Australia’s conservative mag, The Quadrant, had assured his readers,
On November 6, 2012, Mitt Romney will be elected President of the United States by a comfortable margin. It will not be a cliffhanger, despite the chorus of conventional wisdom.
Carr added that, because of his choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, and his strong performance in the debate, Romney’s victory was assured. In his post mortem after the results were in, he sadly concluded,
Mitt Romney played Mr. Nice Guy. President Obama played the demagogue. But nice guys finish last.
In Germany, Der Spiegel’s token conservative pundit, Jan Fleischhauer, also had it wrong. In an article entitled “Bad, Bad Romney,” a satirical dig at the usual German version of reality in which the Republicans are bad guys and the Democrats good guys, he writes,
In the media the battle for the White House is already decided; Mitt Romney… has no chance. Unfortunately, wishful thinking isn’t much help in a democracy. The Republicans may not have the press on their side – but they have the numbers.
Not one to dwell on his mistake, Mr. Fleischhauer penned another article entitled “Our Obama-Love is Infantile“ a couple of days after the election analyzing the “root causes” of German anti-Americanism. It was probably more useful to his readers, noting, for example, that Germans have been hopefully and confidently predicting the downfall of the United States for the last 40 years. In fact, it’s probably been longer than that. I note in passing that, in reading the many comments after the articles on the U.S. elections on German webzines, there are a lot more Germans pointing to the faults of their own country and condemning the ubiquitous destructive criticism of the United States than there were, say, ten years ago. The usual received wisdom according to which the U.S. is the decaying embodiment of evil imperialism, run by shadowy financiers, and inhabited by Bible-thumping Christian versions of the Taliban, is still there in abundance. However, more nuance is gradually being added by those who ask questions such as why, if we are so evil, and Germany such a paradise, so many Germans are looking around for the best shortcut to a Green Card.
One thing that both the lucky and the unlucky pundits will likely agree on is that the electorate is fractured along racial and gender lines as never before. Political ingroups in the U.S. are rapidly becoming less defined by ideology, and more defined by demography. Romney won the vote of white males over thirty by a massive majority. Obama won the black, Hispanic, Asian, and single female votes by similarly huge majorities. His majorities trumped Romney’s. It seems that similarly constituted Democratic majorities will continue prevail more frequently than not in national elections for a long time to come. To the extent that political and economic issues mattered in this election, they mattered less in their own right and more as cultural attributes associated with race and gender than in past elections. The Benghazi debacle was a huge deal for white males over thirty. It was a non-issue for young black women.
Posted on August 31st, 2012 No comments
Niall Ferguson’s recent publication of an article attacking Obama in Newsweek generated a lot of useful data on the nature of political thought. Consider, for example, the hundreds of comments left on liberal and conservative political blogs and websites. They’re easy enough to find on Google. On the former, the commenters are typically furious because of their conviction that Ferguson’s article is nothing but a pack of lies, and on the latter they are triumphant because of their conviction that Ferguson not only answered but demolished the charges of deception, and exposed his opponents as the real liars. For the most part, the comments are morally charged, and seem to fully vindicate Jonathan Haidt’s point about the emotional dog with a rational tail. To the extent that any of the commenters attempt to use reason at all, it is to vindicate intuitions about whether Ferguson is “good” or “evil” that are entirely predictable depending on whether they dwell on the right or left of the political spectrum. There are virtually no instances of the apparent use of reason to weigh and balance the evidence before forming an opinion. The more obsessed an individual is with politics, the more predictable his opinions become on any politically loaded issue. If there is any good news in all this, it is that both sides are well-represented in the social media, at least in the United States. The rare individual who is inclined to weigh the evidence on both sides and attempt to formulate an opinion informed by reason at least has easy access to both points of view. The result is a salutary restraint on the ardent partisans of both sides that encourages them to occasionally temper their ideal worldview with doses of reality. If only one point of view were represented, there would be an opposite tendency to replace reality with fantasy.
The German media provides a good example of how this works in practice. As in the U.S., the social media in that country has powerful voices on both the “left” and the “right.” There are pronounced differences among the partisans of both sides, particularly regarding issues of local interest. However, as regards, the U.S., the message from both sides is remarkably similar. This was very evident in the most recent of the periodic eruptions of anti-American hate in Europe that reached its climax during the final years of the Clinton and the first years of the Bush Administrations. Coverage of the United States, whether in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the right or Der Spiegel magazine on the left, was uniformly anti-American and quasi-racist. For example, Americans were universally stereotyped as prudish, religious fanatics, gun nuts, etc. Occasionally the bitter attacks on the U.S. took up so much space on Der Spiegel’s website that it was difficult to find any news about Germany. The anti-American wave only subsided when a few people on the other side of the Atlantic began to notice (and be shocked) by what they were seeing. Apparently the big dogs in the German media concluded that, profitable though it undoubtedly was, they would have to tone down what had become blatant hate mongering if they wanted to preserve some chance of continuing to win prestigious international prizes for “objectivity.”
Today things are significantly more subdued although the media still throws a chunk of red meat to the Amerika haters now and then. However, the one-sided nature of the reporting is still the same. Consider, for example, the recent coverage of the Republican National Convention. Whereas, after a brief honeymoon, the Obama Administration is now generally portrayed in the German media as merely ineffectual, the Republicans are decidedly bad guys who are typically described as “radical,” “extreme,” and “crazy.” They are, of course, “racist” as well. Thus, for example, there was heavy coverage of incident in which two unknown individuals threw nuts at a black CNN correspondent and told her that was how they “fed the animals,” but no mention of the seemingly more egregious racism behind the defacing of Republican Mia Love’s Wikipedia entry, and little, if any, notice of the fact that persons of color were prominent speakers at the convention at all.
Paul Ryan is described as an “extremist” in both the “rightist” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (“Ryan is known as a proponent of budget slashing and massive cuts in the area of social welfare”) and the “leftist” Der Spiegel (“Romney’s choice for Vice President has prepared a plan of battle that includes more explosive for America’s democracy than all (Sarah) Palin’s vices – nothing less than a declaration of war on America’s social solidarity”), based on either grossly distorted and one-sided portrayals of his record, or, more commonly, no evidence at all. In spite of the fact that the federal budget proposed by Ryan calls for increased spending every year for the next decade and beyond, he supposedly wants a “skeleton state.” In condemning Ryan, Der Spiegel goes so far as to provide its readers with a fairy tale version of “history” that would never pass the “ho ho” test if there were anyone around with an interest in bothering to challenge it:
Ryan sees himself as a tribune of the people. He likes to quote Ronald Reagan’s remarks to the effect that, if the rich had more, their riches would “trickle down” to the rest of the citizens. The result of this experiment is well known: Reagan had to massively increase taxes in 1982, because the U.S. budget deficit had become gigantic.
In fact, Ryan couldn’t quote Reagan’s remarks about “trickle down” economics, because the term is a straw man used by his enemies. English speakers can easily Google the facts about economics in the Reagan years, and see for themselves that the 1982 tax increase was not “massive” by any reasonable definition of the term, and particularly not when compared with the tax cut of 1981, that it represented a compromise in return for spending cuts, that there was a net overall decline, not increase, in the tax rate during the Reagan years. Furthermore, in spite of tax cuts, as noted by economist M. T. Griffith,
As a result of the Reagan tax cuts, tax payments and the share of income taxes paid by the top 1% climbed sharply. For example, in 1981 the top 1% paid 17.6% of all personal income taxes, but by 1988 their share had jumped to 27.5%, a 10 percentage point increase. The share of the income tax burden borne by the top 10% of taxpayers increased from 48.0% in 1981 to 57.2% in 1988. Meanwhile, the share of income taxes paid by the bottom 50% of taxpayers dropped from 7.5% in 1981 to 5.7% in 1988.
The “gigantic” U.S. budget deficit of 1982 was only about half what it is today as a percent of GDP. The arguments and interpretations of the legacy of the Reagan years continue in the U.S. to this day, with lots of spin on both sides. The point is that the version in the German media is generally a great deal more crudely one-sided than one typically finds in the U.S., even among the most ardent partisans on either side. Only one point of view speaks with a significant voice in the social media. “Fact checking” by the other side is not a concern, because there is no other side, other than a few brave but insignificant bloggers.
The Eastwood speech was another prominent feature of the convention that was portrayed one way by the Right, and an entirely different way by the Left. In Germany, it was portrayed only one way, more or less in lockstep with the version you’re likely to find in the New York Times or Washington Post. Which version you happen to prefer is beside the point. The point is that, on this as on so many other complex issues dealing with the U.S., in Germany, you only get one version, and it’s usually a great deal cruder and tendentious than its equivalent here.
According to Marx, a monopoly of the social means of production in the hands of a single economic class is a bad thing. In practice, it seems to me that a monopoly of the social means of communication on behalf of a single point of view may be a good deal worse. That was the state of affairs that prevailed in the U.S. in the 60’s and 70’s. With respect to “news” about the United States, it is a state of affairs that prevails in Germany, and probably a good number of other countries to this day. Where such monopolies exist, formal “freedom of the press” is meaningless. Keep that in mind the next time you feel like whining about Rush Limbaugh, Foxnews, and the many influential U.S. bloggers and websites of the right, or about George Soros, MSNBC, and the many influential U.S. bloggers and websites of the left. As long as both of them exist, it’s a good thing. They keep each other honest.
Posted on July 31st, 2012 2 comments
Well, actually that’s only technically true. Any potential Obama voter who can afford the fare and tell a red state from a blue state becomes an honorary U.S. citizen as soon as they set foot on these shores. They can vote as often as they like, as long as they don’t do it all in the same precinct. Still, I had to chuckle when I glanced at the website of Der Spiegel this morning. They are so in the tank for Obama they make MSNBC look like the soul of objective journalism. Here are the stories I found in a quick glance through:
Headline: Candidate Embarrassing Byline: Stiff as a board, clueless, artificial. Republican Presidential candidate exposed many of his weaknesses on his European tour.
Headline: Romney Enrages Palestinians (have they ever not been enraged?) Byline: Romney campaigns on his foreign tour – and arouses the Palestinians against him in the process.
Headline: Romney’s Blundering Tour through Europe Byline: The U.S. candidate for President booked a week of blunders and slip-ups in Europe. Things just aren’t going right for the Republican.
Headline: Stepping in it On Tour Byline: The Palestinians accuse him of racism, the British are cross, and Polands Solidarnosc doesn’t like him.
Headline: Romney Advisor Curses Reporters in Warsaw Byline: There’s no end to the criticism directed at Romney’s foreign tour – now one of his advisors lost his cool.
And mind you, that’s just what I saw in a quick glance on a single day. Actually, it’s a huge improvement. Back in the last years of the Clinton and first years of the Bush Administrations, Der Spiegel’s website was so full of vile, quasi-racist anti-American rants that it was often difficult to wade through it all and find any news about Germany. They only gave it up when a few people across the pond started to notice, and the editors realized they were putting all those prestigious international prizes for “objective journalism” in jeopardy. They still occasionally throw out some red meat to the Amerika haters, but only enough to keep them on life support.
Posted on May 7th, 2012 No comments
Jakob Augstein is the quintessential European version of what would be referred to in the US as a latte Liberal. Heir to what one surmises was a significant fortune from his adopted father, the Amerika-hating founder of Der Spiegel magazine, Rudolf Augstein, he nevertheless imagines himself the champion of the poor and downtrodden. His writing is certainly not original, but he is at least a good specimen of the type for anyone interested in European ideological trends. His reaction to the recent election in France is a good example.
As those who occasionally read a European headline are aware, that election resulted in the victory of socialist Francois Hollande over his austerity-promoting opponent, Nicolas Sarkozy. While certainly noteworthy, such transitions are hardly unprecedented. No matter, the ideological good guys won as far as Augstein is concerned. He greets Hollande’s seemingly unremarkable victory with peals of the Marseillaise and Liberty leading the people:
It is not just a piece of political folklore that France is the land of the revolution. No other European country has such a lively tradition of protest. La lutte permanente, the constant struggle, is part and parcel of the French civilization. In France, the centralized state historically formed an alliance with the people against feudalism. Now the time has come for that to happen again. The fact that the French picked this particular time to vote a socialist into the Elysee Palace is no coincidence. A revolutionary signal will now go forth from France to all of Europe. The new feudal lords who must be resisted are the banks.
Great shades of 1789! Break out Madame Guillotine. What can account for such an outburst of revolutionary zeal in response to what is ostensibly just another garden variety shift from the right to the left in European politics? It is, of course, “austerity,” the course of belt-tightening prescribed by Sarkozy and his pal, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, for Greece and some of the other more profligate spendthrifts in the European Union. Has austerity worked? Augstein’s answer is an unqualified “No.”
…Can one overcome a recession by saving? The answer is: No. those who save during a recession deepen the recession.
I personally rather doubt that anyone knows whether austerity “works” in a recession or not. Modern economies are too complex to simplistically attribute their success or failure to one such overriding factor and, in any case, serious austerity measures haven’t been in effect long enough to allow a confident judgment one way or the other. Certainly the opposites of austerity, such as the recent “stimulus” experiment in the US, haven’t been unqualified successes either, and have the disadvantage of leaving the states that try them mired in debt.
No matter, Augstein goes on to teach us some of the other “lessons” we should learn from the events in France. It turns out that some of these apply to Augsteins’s own country, Germany. The German taxpayers have forked over large sums to keep the economies of Greece and some of the other weak sisters in Europe afloat. Germany’s robust economy has served as an engine to pull the rest of Europe along. German’s should be patting themselves on the back for their European spirit, no?
Not according to Augstein! As he tells it, what Germans should really be doing is hanging their heads in shame.
The Germans are poster boys of the market economy. Never have interest rates been more favorable for Germany. It’s a gift of the market at the expense of the rest of Europe. She (Merkel) isn’t concerned about the European political legacy of Adenauer and Kohl. Those are such western ideas, that mean little to the woman from the east. Driven by cheap money from the international finance markets, the German export industry has scuttled European integration – and Merkel lets them get away with it.
Ah, yes, the socialists of the world have no country. We’ve heard it all before, haven’t we? If you’re successful, you must be evil. The proper response is guilt. Poor Germans! They just can’t ever seem to catch a break. Somehow they always end up in the role of villain.
According to Augstein, without the support of France, Germany and her “saving politics” are now isolated in Europe. What’s that supposed to mean? That Germans are now supposed to fork over even greater funds, this time with no strings attached in the name of “European integration?” If I were a German taxpayer, I know what my response would be: “Let the other Europeans spend and spend to their heart’s content, just as long as they don’t reach into my pocket to do it.”
Well, we’ll just have to wait and see how this flight back to socialism turns out. Who am I to say? I’m no economist. There’s an election in Germany next year. If the socialists return to power there as well, things might really get interesting. We’ll finally find out just how European socialists plan to go about ending austerity after they’ve run out of other people’s money to spend.
Posted on November 2nd, 2011 No comments
In a recent article that appeared in Der Spiegel we find that the editors are ”shocked, shocked,” about Halloween portrayals of Obama as a zombie with a bullet wound in the head. The piece is a classic of its kind, and follows a familiar MO. Spiegel headlines are often scurrilous misrepresentations of the truth, especially in matters touching on the US. The editors then “correct” the disinformation somewhere in the body of the article that follows, well aware that many visitors to their site never look beyond the headlines.
In this case, the headline blames the entire Republican Party for the pic: “Republicans Portray Obama as Zombie with a Head Wound.” Those patient enough to glance at the byline discover the news is rather less sensational. Only the Republicans in the State of Virginia are to blame: “Republicans in the US State of Virginia issued an invitation portraying Barack Obama as a zombie with a head wound.” But wait, there’s more! Those curious enough to actually read the article find that only the Republicans in a single one of the thousands of US counties are to blame: “In the race for the White House, the Republicans of Loudoun County in the US State of Virginia seem to have overshot the target.” The article never does quite get to the real truth: that the zombie portrayal was the bright idea of a single imbecile, who has since resigned after being denounced by the rest of the Republicans in the Loudoun County Committee.
No matter, the editors shake their heads sadly over the regrettable affair, noting that it has,
…inspired great outrage. “Repulsive” and “disgusting” are only a few of the comments about the picture of the President.
They should know. They’re experienced in such matters. Here’s a portrayal of another US President that appeared on the cover of Der Spiegel a few years back.
Posted on May 10th, 2011 No comments
The European media don’t flaunt their anti-Americanism the way they did in times past. I follow the German media, and the level of spite and hatred directed at the United States by the Internet media there a decade ago was amazing. Der Spiegel was always at the head of the pack of baying hounds. It was often difficult to find any news about Germany on their website in the maze of quasi-racist anti-American rants. People on this side of the pond began to notice, and eventually the “respectable” media began to refrain from wearing their hatred on their sleeves. Apparently some rudimentary sense of shame still existed among them. However, the phenomenon of anti-Americanism is still alive and well. Inevitably, it reappears on the occasion of any significant American victory. The squaring of accounts with bin Laden is a case in point. Here’s a sample of the headlines that have appeared on the Spiegel website since that happy event:
Merkel’s Joy Outrages Critics (The usual cheap shots from the pathologically pious against the German Chancellor for daring to approve of the raid.)
How a Judge wants to Bring Merkel to her Senses (A terminally self-righteous Hamburg judge wants to sue Merkel for “approving of an illegal act.”)
Bin Laden, the Victor (Psychobabble deploring the fighting of “evil with evil.” Hand-wringing over an action described as, “an assault by 79 elite soldiers, who shot an unarmed old man, surrounded by women and children.)
Poll – Germans are not Happy about bin Laden’s Death (no kidding?)
American Justice (Oh my! It seems there are some questions about whether the operation was justified under international law.)
Schadenfreude over bin Laden’s Death is Unworthy (A particularly nauseating display of ostentatious self-righteousness by a “theology professor.”)
…and so on, and so on. All this isn’t a purely German phenomenon, of course. Other bloggers have noted the pervasive grief in the rest of Europe over bin Laden’s demise. Seen from a purely psychological perspective, it’s encouraging. Apparently the Europeans still perceive us as “King of the Hill.” After all, they would hardly have worked themselves into such a lather if Gautemala had succeeded in bumping off its public enemy number one. It may be that China’s turn is coming, but they’re not there yet.
Posted on March 7th, 2011 1 comment
Back in the day, coverage of U.S. military operations in the German media consisted mainly of a melange of self-righteous posing and predictions of imminent doom. For example, according to Der Spiegel, Germany’s number one news magazine, in an article published less than two weeks before the fall of Baghdad, the U.S. Army was “stuck in the sand,” it faced a “worst case scenario,” the Iraqis were fighting “much harder than expected,” and the war was likely to last “for months,” and then only if the troops already on the ground received “massive reinforcements.” Unabashed when all these prophecies of doom turned out to be so many fairy tales, Spiegel immediately shifted gears to the usual fare comparing Iraq to Vietnam that Americans became familiar with in their own media. Inevitably, as well as being another Vietnam, Iraq was a “quagmire.” By 2006, Spiegel was confidently assuring its readers, in lockstep with the NYT and WaPo, that, “The Iraq strategy of the Bush Administration has failed.”
Fast forward to the next President. The winds of insurrection are blowing in the Middle East and North Africa. In Libya, however, the revolutionary wave has been checked, at least for the time being, by the stubborn refusal of Muammar Qaddafi to play his assigned role and bow out gracefully. Meanwhile, the U.S. President seems in no hurry to take any “unilateral action,” and seems to have a distinct aversion for any action more forceful than declaring that Qaddafi’s bloody massacres of his own people are “unacceptable.” Oddly enough, Der Spiegel seems to have changed its tune. According to the headline of an interview with delegate to the European parliament Martin Schulz, the “opportunism (Taktiererei) of the European states is a scandal.” Schulz thinks that “a military intervention in Libya may be considered as a last resort.” Spiegel has a long history of expressing its editorial opinion via such “expert” mouthpieces. It would seem the Schulz interview is no exception. For example, according to the bolded opening paragraph of another article under the headline, “Qaddafi’s Counteroffensive puts the West under Pressure,” we read,
Intervene or watch and wait? After ever more violent battles, Libya threatens to sink into civil war, and with it into chaos. There is increasing pressure to intervene, and it is falling above all on western states. Meanwhile, Germany, the EU, and the USA are standing idly by.
All this sounds harmless enough by US standards. For the German media, though, it’s positively jingoist. In the past, their MO has always been to wait until we actually do take action, then print a stream of articles about civilian casualties, bombings of hospitals and old folks homes, allusions to Vietnam and “quagmires,” the selfish motives of the U.S and its evil corporations which, in this case as in Iraq, would undoubtedly be oil, etc., etc. But Obama isn’t playing along. By all appearances, it’s starting to get under their skin. A byline of the above article refers to the U.S. as the “Helpless World Power #1.” The U.S. military is portrayed as “skeptical” about intervention, and “playing for time” to avoid it. Pentagon spokesman is using the excuse of Libyan air defenses “more effective than those of the Iraqis in 2003,” to explain this “stalling.” In a word, Der Spiegel is positively egging us on to send in the cavalry.
Somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion that the German media, along with the rest of that of “old Europe,” would turn on us with a vengeance as soon as the first boot of the first U.S. GI touched Libyan soil. I have a better idea. Let’s just stay out of it. Give peace a chance! If the Europeans are so worried about the fate of the Libyan people, I’m all in favor of letting them have a go at saving them, but without our assistance. There are occasions when I feel positively comforted by the fact that Barack Obama, and not John McCain, is our President. This is one of them.