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  • Ingroups and Outgroups and Ideologues

    Posted on February 27th, 2016 Helian 5 comments

    The Blank Slate is not over.  True, behavioral scientists, intellectuals, and ideologues of all stripes now grudgingly admit something that has always been obvious to those Donald Trump refers to as the “poorly educated,” not to mention reasonably perceptive children; namely, that there is such a thing as human nature.  However, many of them only admit it to the point where it interferes with their imaginary utopias of universal brotherhood and human flourishing, and no further.  Allow me to consult the source material to illustrate what I’m talking about.  In Man and Aggression, published in 1968, Blank Slate high priest Ashley Montagu wrote,

    …man is man because he has no instincts, because everything he is and has become he has learned, acquired, from his culture, from the man-made part of the environment, from other human beings… The fact is, that with the exception of the instinctoid reactions in infants to sudden withdrawals of support and to sudden loud noises, the human being is entirely instinctless… Human nature is what man learns to become a human being.

    A bit later, in 1984, fellow Blank Slater Richard Lewontin generously expanded the repertoire of “innate” human behavior to include urinating and defecating in his Not in Our Genes.  One still finds such old school denialists in the darker nooks of academia today, but now one can at least speak of human nature without being denounced as a fascist, and the existence of such benign aspects thereof as altruism is generally admitted.  However, no such tolerance is extended to aspects of our behavior that contradict ideological shibboleths.  Here, for example, is a recent quote from a review of Jerry Coyne’s Faith Versus Fact (a good read, by the way, and one I highly recommend) by critic George Sciallaba:

    For all the vigor with which Coyne pursues his bill of indictment against organized religion, he leaves out one important charge. As he says, the conflict between religion and science is “only one battle in a wider war—a war between rationality and superstition.” There are other kinds of superstition. Coyne mentions astrology, paranormal phenomena, homeopathy, and spiritual healing, but religion “is the most widespread and harmful form.” I’m not so sure. Political forms of superstition, like patriotism, tribalism, and the belief that human nature is unalterably prone to selfishness and violence, seem to me even more destructive.

    Aficionados will immediate recognize the provenance of this claim.  It is a reworked version of the old “genetic determinism” canard, already hackneyed in the heyday of Ashley Montagu.  It serves as a one size fits all accusation applied to anyone who suggests that any aspect of the human behavioral repertoire might be “bad” as opposed to “good.”  Patriotism and tribalism are, of course, “bad.”  There’s only one problem.  If “genetic determinists” exist at all, they must be as rare as unicorns.  I’ve never encountered a genuine specimen, and I’ve search long and hard.  In other words, the argument is a straw man.  There certainly are, however, people, myself included, who believe that our species is predisposed to behave in ways that can easily lead to such “bad” behaviors as tribalism, selfishness and violence.  However, to the best of my knowledge, none of them believe that we are “unalterably prone” to such behavior.  What they do believe is that the most destructive forms of human behavior may best be avoided by understanding what causes them rather than denying that those causes exist.

    Which finally brings us to the point of this post.  Human beings are predisposed to categorize others of their species into ingroups and outgroups.  They associate “good” qualities with the ingroup, and “evil” qualities with the outgroup.  This fact was familiar to behavioral scientists at the beginning of the 20th century, before the Blank Slate curtain fell, and was elaborated into a formal theory by Sir Arthur Keith in the 1940’s.  I can think of no truth about the behavior of our species that is so obvious, so important to understand, and at the same time so bitterly denied and resisted by “highly educated” ideologues.  Tribalism is not a “superstition,” as Mr. Sciallaba would have us believe, but a form of ingroup/outgroup behavior and, as such, a perfectly predictable and natural trait of our species.  It has played a major role as the sparkplug for all the bloody and destructive wars that have plagued us since the dawn of recorded time and before.  It is also the “root cause” of virtually every ideological controversy ever heard of.  It does not make us “unalterably prone” to engage in warfare, or any other aggressive behavior.  I have little doubt that we can “alter” and control its most destructive manifestations.  Before we can do that, however, we must understand it, and before we can understand it we must accept the fact that it exists.  We are far from doing so.

    Nowhere is this fact better illustrated today than in the struggle over international borders.  Take, for example, the case of Germany.  Her “conservative” government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, long followed a policy of treating the countries borders as if they didn’t exist.  More than a million culturally alien Moslem “refugees” were allowed to pour across them in a single year.  This policy of the “conservative” German government was cheered on by the “leftist” German news media, demonstrating that the pleasant mirage of universal human brotherhood is hardly a monopoly of either extreme of the political spectrum.  The masses in Germany reacted more or less the same way they have reacted in every other western European country, demonstrating what some have referred to as an “immune” response.  They resisted the influx of immigrants, and insisted that the government reestablish control over the nation’s borders.  For this, one finds them condemned every day in both the “right wing” and “left wing” German media as “haters.”

    A remarkable fact about all this, at least as far as Germany is concerned, is that the very same German media, whether of the “right” or the “left,” quite recently engaged in a campaign of anti-American hatemongering that would put anything they accuse the local “tribalists” of completely in the shade.  The magazine Der Spiegel, now prominent in condemning as “haters” anyone who dares to suggest that uncontrolled immigration might not be an unalloyed blessing, was in the very forefront of this campaign of hate against the United States.  One could almost literally feel the spittle flying from the computer screen if one looked at their webpage during the climax of this latest orgy of anti-Americanism.  It was often difficult to find any news about Germany among the furious denunciations of the United States for one imagined evil or another.  It was hardly “all about Bush,” as sometimes claimed.  These rants came complete with quasi-racist stereotyping of all Americans as prudish, gun nuts, religious fanatics, etc.  If ever there were a textbook example of what Robert Ardrey once called the “Amity-Enmity Complex,” that was it.  After indulging in this orgy of hatemongering, Der Spiegel and the rest are now sufficiently hypocritical to point the finger at others as “haters.”

    There is another remarkable twist to this story as far as Germany is concerned.  There were a few brave little bloggers and others in Germany who resisted the epidemic of hate.  Amid a storm of abuse, they insisted on the truth, exposed the grossly exaggerated and one-sided nature of the media’s anti-American rants, and exposed the attempts in the media to identify Americans as an outgroup.  Today one finds the very same people who resisted this media hate campaign among those Der Spiegel and the rest point the finger at as “haters.”  In general, they include anyone who insists on the existence of national borders and the sovereign right of the citizens in every country to decide who will be allowed to enter, and who not.

    The point here is that the outgroup have ye always with you.  Those most prone to strike self-righteous poses and hurl down anathemas on others as “haters” are often the most virulent haters themselves.  To further demonstrate  that fact, one need only look at the websites, magazines, books, and other media produced by the most ardent proponents of “universal human brotherhood.”  If you find a website with comment threads, by all means look at them as well.  I guarantee you won’t have to look very far to find the outgroup.  It will always be there, decorated with all the usual pejoratives and denunciations we commonly associate with the “immoral,” and the “other.”  The “tribe” of “others” can come in many forms.  In the case of the proponents of “human flourishing,” the “other” is usually defined in ideological terms.  For leftists, one sometimes finds the “Rethugs,” or “Repugs” in the role of outgroup.  For rightists, they are “Commies” and “socialists.”  It’s never difficult to exhume the hated outgroup of even the most profuse proponents of future borderless utopias as long as one knows where to dig.  We are all “tribalists.”  Those who think tribalism is just a “superstition” can easily demonstrate the opposite by simply looking in the mirror.

    Today we find another interesting artifact of this aspect of human nature in the phenomenon of Donald Trump.  The elites of both parties don’t know whether to spit or swallow as they watch him sweep to victory after victory in spite of “gaffes,” “lies,” and all kinds of related “buffoonery,” that would have brought his political career to a screeching halt in the past.  The explanation is obvious to the “poorly educated.”  Trump has openly called for an end to uncontrolled illegal immigration.  The “poorly educated” were long cowed into silence, fearing the usual hackneyed accusations of racism, but now a man who can’t be cowed has finally stepped forward and openly proclaimed what they’ve been thinking all along; that uncontrolled immigration is an evil that will lead to no good in the long run.  This fact is as obvious to the “poorly educated” in Europe as it is to the “poorly educated” in the United States.

    Ingroups and outgroups are a fundamental manifestation of human morality.  There is an objective reason for the existence of that morality.  It exists because it has promoted the survival and reproduction of the genes responsible for it in times not necessarily identical to the present.  It does not exist for the “purpose” of promoting universal brotherhood, or the “purpose” of promoting “human flourishing,” or the “purpose” of eliminating international boundaries.  It has no “purpose” at all.  It simply is.  I am a moral being myself.  I happen to prefer a version of morality that accomplishes ends that I deem in harmony with the reasons that morality exists to begin with.  Those ends include my own survival and the survival of others like me.  Uncontrolled immigration of culturally alien populations into the United States or any other country is most unlikely to promote either the “flourishing” or the survival of the populations already there.  As has been demonstrated countless times in the past, it normally accomplishes precisely the opposite, typically in the form of bitter civil strife, and often in the form of civil war.  I happen to consider civil strife and civil war “evil,” from what is admittedly my own, purely subjective point of view.  I realize that my resistance to these “evils” really amounts to nothing more than a whim.  However, it happens to be a whim that is obviously shared by many of my fellow citizens.  I hope this “ingroup” of people who agree with me can make its influence felt, for the very reason that I don’t believe that human beings must forever remain “unalterably prone” to constantly repeating the same mistake of substituting a mirage for reality when it comes to understanding their own behavior.  That is what the Blank Slaters have done, and continue to do.  I hope they will eventually see the light, for their own “good” as well as mine.  We are not “unalterably prone” to anything.  However, before one can alter, one must first understand.

     

     

  • On the Hatred of the “Anti-Haters”

    Posted on October 24th, 2015 Helian No comments

    Europe is an amazing sight these days.  The leftists are doing what leftists do – fighting to eliminate any semblance of recognizable borders or national sovereignty, encouraging hordes of culturally alien immigrants to pour into the continent in the process.  All this is being done in the name of “morality,” more or less in the same sense as one might jump off a cliff in the name of “getting exercise.”  Leftists, whether they nominally belong to the “conservative” or “liberal” parties, control the media, the schools, the churches, and state power.  But in spite of an unprecedented barrage of propaganda from all those sources, the populations of the countries concerned are starting to demonstrate a slight uneasiness, or, if you will, common sense.  They know that, historically, allowing the numbers of unassimilable aliens in ones country to increase beyond a certain point has invariably resulted in violent social unrest, and occasionally civil war.  They would prefer to avoid those outcomes.  Denied any democratic means of expressing their opinions via, for example, plebiscites, some of them have taken to the streets in protest.  The response of their masters has been remarkable.  Aware that they lack any semblance of a democratic mandate for the profound and likely irreversible changes they have been making to Europe’s demographic and cultural landscape, and also aware that the people are not with them, they have reacted with what one might describe as a form of hysteria.

    Germany, of course, has been taking a leading role in destabilizing the continent in keeping with time-honored tradition.  As I have German relatives and a German wife, I pay particular attention happenings there.  As examples of what I have described above as the hysteria of the string pullers in that country, one might consider the following:

    • Some of the first German citizens to take to the streets were loosely organized under the rubric of “PEGIDA,” (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident.)  Several similar groups have emerged since then.  For the most part, they consist of citizens who simply gather in the streets and occasionally conduct peaceful marches.  In other words, they are people who “peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”  According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the response has been to intimidate them with threats of surveillance by the local equivalent of the FBI, rationalized by the claim that they are all merely puppets in the hands of right wing fringe elements.
    • The “respectable” and “conservative FAZ also “informed” its readers about PEGIDA by publishing an interview with one Hajo Funke, described as an “extremism researcher.”  Readers are left trembling over accounts of supposed “connections” between PEGIDA and the murder of Cologne’s mayor by right wingers.  U.S. readers should be familiar with this rather hackneyed tactic of claiming that whatever heinous crimes can be exploited for the purpose were “inspired” by whatever group one wants to smear.
    • Media giant ARD ran a story about a “chain of lights,” made up of citizens holding candles and torches to welcome immigrants.  Some of the supposed images of the event turned out to be fake, and were actually taken at a different event back in 2003.
    • Not to be outdone, Der Spiegel, Germany’s largest news magazine, cites supposed incidents of “hatemongering” against immigrants on YouTube, and “inciting the populace” on Facebook, with allusions of ongoing government investigations of the “extremists.”  Focus magazine chimes in that one of these Facebook extremists has just been sentenced to more than two years in prison for “agitating against immigrants.”  That should “get his mind right.”

    Anyone who suggests that the government might want to assume some elementary level of control over the borders and pause in implementing its radical policies until the citizens have been allowed to weigh in on the matter is commonly described in the German media as a “hater.”  This is particularly true of any mention of the subject in Der Spiegel.  That’s a bit rich considering that Der Spiegel takes the cake among German hatemongers in this century, and would have gotten at least an honorable mention in the last.

    Der Spiegel was in the very vanguard of the lucrative game of peddling hate against the United States during the latest European orgasm of anti-Americanism which reached its peak about a decade ago.  Many of the most egregious examples were documented on Davids Medienkritik, now mothballed but still an excellent source of historical source material.  I encourage readers to visit the site and page back to the posts prior to, say 2008.  Among other things, Medienkritik put together a collage of Spiegel covers that pretty much says it all when it comes to hatred.

    Spiegel Covers

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Have a look and you’ll see examples of some of Spiegel’s favorite quasi-racist anti-American stereotypes.  Of course, the gun nut and religious fanatic are there, as well as well as such favorite themes as Americans exploiting German workers, torturing prisoners, trading “blood for oil,” etc.  Such relentlessly negative coverage of the United States occasionally reached levels that can only be described as fanatical, crowding out virtually all other news on Spiegel’s website.

    At the crest of the anti-American wave in Germany, one found similar “news” stories in virtually every German publication worth mentioning, from the left wing Der Spiegel to the “conservative” FAZ to the neo-Nazi Deutsche National-Zeitung.  Standing bravely in opposition to this wave of xenophobic hate, calling for some modicum of rational and fair treatment of the United States, were a few little bloggers.  These people had nothing to gain from resisting the hatemongers, went almost completely unnoticed in the United States, and were subjected to vilification and hacking attacks in their own country.  They certainly deserve our gratitude.  As it happens, one of the most active of these little blogs went by the name of Politically Incorrect.  It’s editor was a reliable voice against the pervasive peddling of hate at Spiegel and elsewhere.  The blog still exists.  It should come as no surprise that it is now taking a stand against the suicidal policies of the German regime.

    Of course, according to the editors of Der Spiegel, Politically Incorrect’s resistance to the uncontrolled deluge of “asylum seekers,” land it among the “inciters of the German Volk,” the “promoters of murder,” the “right wing extremists,” the “neo-Nazis,” and, in a word, the “haters.”  In fact, the real haters in Germany are to be found elsewhere.  Readers should find a clue about where to look for them if they take a close look at Medienkritik’s collage of magazine covers.

    I noted in my recent posts on James Burnham how well he exposed the sources of the current push to eliminate borders and allow the free movement of human populations across the globe in liberal fantasies of universal human brotherhood.  I can think of no better demonstration of the delusional nature of this goal than the spectacle of the bitter and fanatical hatreds of the very people who are foremost in attempting to force it down the throats of their fellow citizens.  Their hate hasn’t gone anywhere.  They’ve merely found a different outgroup to hate, in the form of anyone who dares to oppose their ideological shibboleths.  And in the end, that’s why their current experiment in destabilizing their own countries is most unlikely to end well.  As the rage of these “anti-haters” against anyone who stands in their way becomes ever more hysterical, they expose themselves as the most virulent haters of all.

  • Of Smug Germans and Sinful Australians: Global Warming Update

    Posted on October 4th, 2014 Helian No comments

    No doubt the outcome of the Nazi unpleasantness resulted in attitude adjustment in Germany on a rather large scale.  Clearly, however, it didn’t teach the Germans humility.  At a time when a secular mutation of Puritanism has become the dominant ideology in much of Europe and North America, the Germans take the cake for pathological piety.  Not that long ago the fashionable evil de jour was the United States, and anti-American hate mongering in the German media reached levels that would make your toes curl.  In the last years of the Clinton and the first years of the following Bush administrations it was often difficult to find anything about Germany on the home pages of popular German news magazines like Der Spiegel because the available space was taken up by furious rants against the United States for the latest failures to live up to German standards of virtue.  Eventually the anti-American jihad choked on its own excess, and other scapegoats were found. Clearly, however, German puritanism is still alive and well.  An amusing example just turned up in the Sydney Morning Herald under the headline, “Merkel adviser lashes Abbott’s ‘suicide strategy’ on coal.”  The advisor in question was one Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Chancellor Merkel’s lead climate advisor.  A picture of him posing as the apotheosis of smugness accompanies the article, according to which he,

    …attacked Australia’s complacency on global warming and described the Abbott government’s championing of the coal industry as an economic “suicide strategy”.

    Alas, we learn that Schellnhuber’s anathemas also fell on our neighbor to the north.  The SMH quotes him as saying,

    Similar to Canada, Australia for the time being is not part of the international community which is cooperating to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions.

    Tears run down our cheeks as Schellnhuber describes Australia’s fall from grace:

     …it had been disappointing to see Australia’s retreat on climate policy after it became “the darling of the world” when Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2007.

    As readers who were around at the time may recall, the Kyoto Protocol conformed perfectly to German standards of “fairness.”  It would have required states like The United States and Canada to meet exactly the same percentage reduction in emissions from the base year 1990 as the countries in the European Union, in spite of the fact that their economies had expanded at a faster rate than most of Europe’s during the period, they did not enjoy the same access to cheap, clean-burning natural gas as the Europeans in those pre-fracking days, and, “fairest” of all, they weren’t the beneficiaries of massive emission reductions from the closing of obsolete east European factories following the demise of Communism.  In other words, it was “fair” for the US and Canada to shed tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in order to meet grossly disproportionate emissions standards while Germany and the rest of the Europeans cheered from the sidelines.

    What is one to think of this latest instance of ostentatious German piety?  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  For one thing, the apparent concern about climate change in Germany is about 99% moralistic posing and 1% real.  Solzhenitsyn used a word in The First Circle that describes the phenomenon very well; sharashka.  Basically, it’s a lie so big that even those telling it eventually begin to believe it.  The German decision to shut down their nuclear power plants demonstrated quite clearly that they’re not serious about fighting global warming.  Base load sources of energy are needed for when renewables are unavailable because the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.  Practical alternatives for filling in the gaps include nuclear and fossil fuel.  Germany has rejected the former and chosen one of the dirtiest forms of the latter; coal-fired plants using her own sources of lignite.  She plans to build no less than 26 of them in the coming years!

    It’s stunning, really.  These plants will pump millions of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that wouldn’t have been there if Germany had kept her nuclear plants on line.  Not only that, they represent a far greater radioactive danger than nuclear plants, because coal contains several parts per million of radioactive thorium and uranium.  The extent of German chutzpah is further demonstrated by a glance at recent emission numbers.  Germany is now the worst polluter in the EU.  Her CO2 emissions have risen substantially lately, due mainly to those new lignite plants beginning to come on line.  Coal-generated energy in Germany is now around 50% of the mix, the highest it’s been since 1990.  Even as the German government shook its collective head at the sinful Australians, telling them to mend their evil ways or bear the guilt for wars and revolution, not to mention the bleaching of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef, her own CO2 emission rose 1.5% in 2013 over the previous year, while Australia’s fell by 0.8% in the same period!

    In a word, dear reader, for the German “Greens,” the pose is everything, and the reality nothing.

  • German Media Update: The Honeymoon is Definitely Over

    Posted on March 26th, 2014 Helian 2 comments

    Times have changed in Germany since Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and spoke before 200,000 enraptured fans in Berlin.  Only 6,000 turned out to hear him when he returned last year.  Meanwhile, the media there, particularly since the recent events in Ukraine, has been resurrecting themes that were familiar during the Cold War.  The political left is beginning to turn to Russia, and the political right is decrying the weakness of the Obama Administration.  For example, while the overall tone of the main news magazine, Der Spiegel, has been anti-Russian, Jakob Augstein, whose column “When in Doubt, to the Left,” appears there regularly, wrote a couple of days ago:

    Media and political pundits want to breathe new life into an old “face of the enemy” (Feindbild):  the evil Russian.  As far as Russia is concerned, the West is in once again stuck in the same rut as in the cynical days of yesteryear, when US Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger publicly expressed his hope that the superpower in the East would go under “with a whimper, not with a bang.”  Hillary Clinton just compared Putin to Hitler.  That’s how one recommends oneself in the US as a potential Democratic presidential candidate.  Meanwhile, the Russia policy of the two East Germans Merkel and (German President) Gauck is as resentful as if they were exploiting their offices for private trauma therapy.

    Meanwhile the polls are showing that the public isn’t inclined to tag along.  A majority of Germans do not consider Putin unreasonable for viewing the Crimea as a Russian sphere of influence.  (As opposed to Putin) the tendency to ignore and violate borders is a characteristic of the West.  It constantly seeks to fish in troubled waters (“periklitieren”), to use one of Bismarck’s favorite expressions, outside of its own sphere of influence.  Or, more to the point, it claims the whole world as its sphere of interest.  That’s just the problem.

    The West can never get enough, and is therefore insatiable… The Asians have finally drawn their own conclusions:  the lamb must now itself become the wolf.

    It’s clear from the reader comments that appeared after a recent Spiegel article on the crisis that Augstein hasn’t misrepresented German attitudes.  The article itself, entitled, “The Ukraine:  Obama Expresses Scorn for Ukraine as a Regional Power,” includes the understated byline, “This isn’t how de-escalation should look.”   Some typical examples:

    The ineffectual US President dares to shoot his mouth off like this?  He never seems to come up with anything concrete and positive except stupidities… I demand that his Nobel Peace Prize be revoked. (whiteelephant1)

    The US is clearly on the path of escalation… It would be nice if the German media would adopt a more critical attitude, and not always just go along with everything the US/EU says.  Putin isn’t the danger.  The danger comes from those who now sense an opportunity to finish Russia once and for all.  That’s what this is really about.  (mc6206)

    Very nice, Mr. Obama, just keep playing with fire.  After all, thank God there’s a buffer zone between Russia and your homeland in case Russia loses its nerve.  It’s called EUROPE!  (Korf)

    If Russia is just a “regional power,” and one has more important problems to deal with, why these hysterical attempts to isolate Russia and portray her in a bad light.  Who is supposed to be swallowing such stupidities from Obama?  (itf)

    Well, we’re not exactly seeing a return to the last super-eruption of anti-Americanism in Germany that reached its climax about 15 years ago, but the honeymoon is clearly over.

    UPDATE:  Der Spiegel just published its take on an interview with former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt that appeared in the weekly newspaper, Die Zeit.  Schmidt is a highly intelligent man whose memoirs are well worth reading, and who can hardly be described as anti-American.  Der Spiegel headlines the interview, “Former Chancellor Schmidt Defends Putin’s Ukraine Policy.”  The byline reads, “Helmut Schmidt finds the actions of Russia in the Crimea ‘completely understandable,’ and considers sanctions ‘dumb stuff’ (dummes Zeug).  No doubt the situation in Ukraine is dangerous – however, in the former Chancellor’s opinion, the West is at fault.”

    A few excerpts from the article in Der Spiegel:

    Schmidt was highly critical of the way in which the Crimea crisis has been handled in the West.  He referred to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and the USA as “dumb stuff.”  In Schmidt’s opinion, attempts to impose further sanctions would be misguided.  For the most part they would have merely symbolic value, “but they would affect the West just as much as the Russians.

    Schmidt’s words provide support to those taking part in the debate in Germany who favor looking at things from the Russian point of view.  Former Chancellor and party colleague Gerhard Schröder recently spoke in similar terms.

    According to Schmidt, the situation in Ukraine is “dangerous, because the West has worked itself into a frenzy.”  (literally, “has become terribly excited”)  As a result, “the overwrought reaction in the West has naturally led to a similar overwrought reaction in Russian public opinion and politics.”  Referring to the (reserved) policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel the 95-year old said, “In this case praise for the caution of the German Chancellor is appropriate.”

    So far the editorial narrative at Der Spiegel has been mainly anti-Russian.  However, there has been a shift to a more circumspect approach lately, with articles critical of right wing nationalists in the current Kiev regime, taking note of western media darling Yulia Timoshenko’s hateful tirade against Putin in an overheard telephone conversation in which she said she was “ready to pick up a machine pistol and shoot this piece of crap in the head,” suggesting the use of nuclear weapons to kill Russians, and so on.  It is noteworthy that the German Green Party, which has tacked to the right in recent years, immediately condemned Schmidt’s comments, while the Party of the Left, positioned to the left of the German Socialist Party (SPD), praised his remarks.

     

  • Fusion Follies at Der Spiegel

    Posted on October 19th, 2013 Helian No comments

    Who says there’s no such thing as German humor?  Take, for example, some of the comments left by Teutonic wags after an article about the recent fusion “breakthrough” reported by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory working on the National Ignition Facility (NIF).  One of the first was left by one of Germany’s famous “Greens,” who was worried about the long term effects of fusion energy.  Very long term.  Here’s what he had to say:

    So nuclear fusion is green energy, is it?  The opposite is true.  Nuclear fusion is the form of energy that guarantees that any form of Green will be forever out of the question.  In comparison, Chernobyl is a short-lived joke!  Why?  Have you ever actually considered what will be “burned” with fusion energy?  Hydrogen, one of the two components of water, (and a material without which life is simply impossible)!  Nuclear fusion?  I can already see the wars over water coming.  And, by the way, the process is irreversible.  Once hydrogen is fused, it’s gone forever.  Nothing and no one will ever be able to make water out of it ever again!

    I’m not kidding!  The guy was dead serious.  Of course, this drew a multitude of comments from typical German Besserwisser (better knowers), such as, “If you don’t have a clue, you should shut your trap.”  However, some of the other commenters were more light-hearted.  for example,

    No, no, no.  What eu-fan (the first commenter) doesn’t seem to understand is that this should be seen as a measure against the rise in sea level that will result from global warming.  Less hydrogen -> less water -> reduced sea level -> everything will be OK.

    Another hopeful commenter adds,

    …if it ever actually does succeed, this green fusion, can we have our old-fashioned light bulbs back?

    Noting that the fusion of hydrogen produces helium, another commenter chimes in,

    So, in other words, if a fusion reactor blows up, the result will be a global bird cage:  The helium released will make us all talk like Mickey Mouse!

    In all seriousness, the article in Der Spiegel about the “breakthrough” wasn’t at all bad.  The author actually bothered to ask a local fusion expert, Sibylle Günter, Scientific Director of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, about Livermore’s “breakthrough.”  She replied,

    The success of our colleagues (at Livermore) is remarkable, and I don’t want to belittle it.  However, when one speaks of a “breakeven point” in the classical sense, in which the fusion energy out equals the total energy in, they still have a long way to go.

    That, of course, is entirely true.  The only way one can speak of a “breakthough” in the recent NIF experiments is by dumbing down the accepted definition of “ignition” from “fusion energy out equals laser energy in” to “fusion energy out equals energy absorbed by the target,” a much lower amount.  That didn’t deter many writers of English-language reports, who couldn’t be troubled to fact check Livermore’s claims with the likes of Dr. Günter.  In some cases the level of fusion wowserism was extreme.  For example, according to the account at Yahoo News,

    After fifty years of research, scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, have made a breakthrough in harnessing and controlling fusion.

    and,

    According to the BBC, NIF conducted an experiment where the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction was more than the amount of energy being absorbed by it. This process is known as “ignition” and is the first time it has successfully been done anywhere in the world.

    I’m afraid not.  The definition of “ignition” that has been explicitly accepted by scientists at Livermore is “fusion energy out equals laser energy in.”  That definition puts them on a level playing field with their magnetic fusion competitors.  It’s hardly out of the question that the NIF will reach that goal, but it isn’t there yet.  Not by a long shot.

     

  • Warmongering at “Der Spiegel?”

    Posted on August 23rd, 2013 Helian No comments

    Pity the poor President.  He can’t do anything right!  Or at least not according to Der Spiegel.  After furiously condemning him for lethal drone attacks, murdering civilians in Afghanistan, and personally eavesdropping on German phone conversations via a direct line from the NSA, the editors are now upset with his pusillanimous lack of warlike spirit in Syria.  In an article on the Spiegel website entitled “Barack Obama’s Syria Policy:  President for Procrastination and Delay,” Washington correspondent Sebastian Fischer dolefully informs us that after not one, not two, but three really serious, we mean it this time, warnings from Obama, Assad blew him off and attacked his own people with chemical weapons anyway.  Assad “gives a whistle” about US threats.  Wringing his hands, Fischer wonders, “How can this be?  Is Obama too weak?”

    It would seem so, as Fischer continues, “Particularly alarming for Obama:  The indifference of the dictator Assad isn’t an anomaly.  The US President isn’t getting through to Egypt’s military, either.  He can warn and scold as much as he wants, but the new rulers in Cairo pay no attention to him.  And what of Russia’s President Putin, the only one who might still have a shot at reigning in Assad?  He’s done his best to show how unimpressed he is with America.”   Spiegel’s man on the spot goes on to tell us that, “In Washington, this kind of impotence is received with bitterness.”  Ending his piece with a bit of humor, Fisher writes, “On Wednesday Obama’s press secretary was asked just where the President’s ‘red line’ was located in the case of Egypt.  ‘Well,’ joked Josh Earnest, ‘I didn’t bring along my red pencil.'”

    Aficionados of US-German relations will remember wistfully how we were assured at the end of the Bush Administration that the advent of Obama would usher in a golden age in relations between the countries.  I can assure the lay reader that the honeymoon has been over for a long time.  Readers of German who need a good laugh should look at the comment section after the article.  In keeping with the time-honored German tradition when it comes to articles about the US, it contains numerous revelations of various “plots” by our government, many of which are mutually contradictory, yet, we are assured, “proved” by oodles of evidence.  In this case, the commenters are as full of novel insights as ever.  One HäretikerX assures us that Obama is a “Bush puppet.”  Ihawk explains that any intervention in Syria “must and should be under the leadership of Russia,”(!) apparently because Syria belongs to the Russian sphere of influence.  Eppelein von Gailengen chimes in, “A toothless tiger has come undone.  That’s especially true of Obama and his policy.  No bite, no concept of the future, no recovery in the job market as a result of a lack of any economic growth worth mentioning.”

    Well, what of it?  Should we write off Germany yet again?  Far from it, dear reader!  Even at the peak of the latest high tide of anti-Americanism in Germany at the end of the Clinton and start of the Bush Administrations, when the media there from right to left was full of furious anti-US propaganda every day, and it was often difficult to find anything on the Der Spiegel website about Germany because of the number of incredibly vile, hatemongering, foaming at the mouth attacks on Amerika, there were always a few decent and honest German bloggers and commenters who defended us.  As a good atheist, I can only say, “God bless them!”  It seems to me there has always been more of that type in Germany than in any other country, and especially more than in the US.  Now there seem to be more of them than ever.  Here are some examples from the comment section of Fischer’s article:

    From a Spiegel reader on Facebook:

    When the US attacks, bad!  When the US doesn’t attack, bad!  As far as some people are concerned, America can never be in the right, and is always responsible if anyone is killed.  What about Europe and its responsibility?  Oh, right, European politicians don’t have a clue.  Well then.

    From eknoes:

    According to the comments in forums like this, Obama is a “toothless tiger” if he doesn’t do anything, and “interfering in the internal affairs of other states” if he does.  As far as the usual Spiegel commenter is concerned, he can never do anything right.

    From Ruhepuls:

    When the American’s play “big brother,” and intervene – if necessary with armed force – in some conflict, then they are accused of striving for hegemony (imperialism).  But if they stay out of it, then they are accused of failing to use their power to pursue “humanitarian” goals.  What the heck!  No matter what the Americans do, it’s always wrong!

    From omarius:

    So this time the Americans are standing aside… and they still can’t please anyone… apparently the professional leftists have discovered a problem that doesn’t have a political solution.^^

    …and many more similar entries.  Write off the Germans?  I don’t think so.  Taken one commenter with another, they’re saner than most.

  • German “Greens” and the Poisoning of Eastern Europe

    Posted on April 22nd, 2013 Helian 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.

    coal-power-plant

  • More Plutonium Horror Stories in Germany

    Posted on March 25th, 2013 Helian 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.”

     

    Plutonium 238

    Plutonium 238

     

     

  • Second Thoughts about Green Energy in Germany

    Posted on January 7th, 2013 Helian 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.

  • The Unlucky Soothsayers

    Posted on November 8th, 2012 Helian 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.

    Fox News talking head Dick Morris. He didn’t think as many minorities and single women would show up as in 2008. Here’s his alibi for the day after.

    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.