The Republican Party has a problem in this presidential election cycle - their candidate, Mitt Romney, is a Mormon private equity guy with Swiss bank accounts. His popularity poll numbers are lower than any other candidate in recent memory. So Republicans have to rely on tried and true campaign tactics that have worked so well for them ever since Ronald Reagan.
Basically, there are two primary initiatives:
1) Suppress the vote of African-Americans and other minorities with onerous new voter identification requirements and other restrictions. These are being implemented in the key "swing states" of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
2) Tap into the latent racism and resentment of white working class voters who have been losing ground economically since 2000. This is happening through blatant lies about the Obama administration as well as through more subtle "whisper campaign" concerning Obama's race, religion, birth status, etc.
Das große Problem der Demokraten ist allerdings, dass die Ablehnung von
Obama in weiten Teilen längst jedes rationale Maß hinter sich gelassen
hat. Statt Argumenten wird blanker Hass verbreitet und mit Behauptungen
unterfüttert, gegen das Anzweifeln seines Geburtsorts geradezu seriös
ist schwer vorher zu sagen, wie weit diese Strömungen in die
Gesellschaft der USA vorgedrungen sind. Einerseits sagen Untersuchungen,
dass die Radikalen zwar immer lauter aber auch immer weniger werden und
besonders in den jüngeren Jahrgängen kaum noch verwurzelt sind. Ein
Blick in Online-Netzwerke oder Kommentarspalten allerdings hinterlässt
einen anderen Eindruck. Beiträge, in denen Obama vorgeworfen wird, etwa
beim Abspielen der Nationalhymne nicht die richtige Haltung angenommen
zu haben, sind noch das Harmloseste und bei Vergleichen mit Affen
aufgrund seiner Hautfarbe ist noch lange nicht Schluss.
(The big problem for the Democrats is that the rejection of Obama among many has gone beyond any measure of rationality. Rather than arguments it is based on pure hatred and accusations that make the birther claims seem almost reasonable. It is hard to say how deep these currents go in American society. Some studies point out that as proponents of these extreme positions become more strident their numbers diminish and, in particular, find no resonance among younger people. But looking at the comments in the online forums one comes away with a different impression. Posts where Obama is accused of not being sufficiently solemn during the playing of the national anthem are among the most harmless. And it doesn't end with comparisons of Obama with monkeys because of his skin color.)
Wut, die in blanken Hass umschlägt, bestimmt die Debatten. Argumente?
Braucht man nicht. Den Frauen wird im Abtreibungsstreit jegliches Recht
auf Selbstbestimmung abgesprochen, mit blanker Ideologie, die
theologisch verbrämt daherkommt. Fakten? Fehlanzeige. In offenem
Rassismus wird über Herkunft und Religion von Präsident Barack Obama
spekuliert, Wahrheiten werden verdreht.
(The debates are determined by seething rage that turns into pure hatred. You don't need arguments. In the abortion battle women are denied any right for self-determination based on an ideology dressed up as theology. Facts? Who cares? With pure racism they speculate on the background and religion of President Obama. The truth is twisted.)
Actually, Romney's tactics might be TOO successful. Republican Party officials were embarrassed when two convention attendees started throwing peanuts at a black CNN camera operator and shouted:"This is how we feed the animals!"
Stefan Zweig committed suicide in Petropolis, Brazil 70 years ago. The exiled writer was at the height of his popularity, and the suicide was reported on the front page of the New York Times. Why did he do it? Zweig had considerable financial resources, unlike the majority of exiled intellectuals who faced abject poverty in the US or other countries. Zweig's friend Carl Zuckmeyer eked out a living as a sheep farmer in Vermont, but embraced America and became a citizen. His friend Joseph Roth died destitute in Paris. Unlike most of the German and Austrian exiled writers, Zweig's works were widely translated in English and French - Zweig was a global celebrity. Only Franz Werfel rivaled him in terms of fame and fortune.
While Werfel has pretty much faded into obscurity, Stefan Zweig continues to generate an astonishing amount of publishing activity. New translations of Zweig's stories, novellas and biographies, some by some of out best translators like Anthea Bell, continue to appear. This week's New Yorker Magazine has a long essay by Leo Cary on Oliver Matuschek's biography of Zweig - Three Lives (translated from the German by Allan Blunden). Despite - or, perhaps, due to - Zweig's persistent popularity, his literary reputation is fiercely debated. While he was alive, Zweig as derided by Thomas Mann and others as little more than a hack (perhaps this was sour grapes, since Zweig sold many more books). And even in death Zweig engenders strong emotions. The poet and translator Michael Hofmann eviscerated Stefan Zweig in a 2010 review of The World of Yesterday. Translator and blogger Katy Derbyshire recently noted that British authorities refused to place a plaque commemorating Stefan Zweig on the London building where he resided in exile for five years because there was "no critical consensus" concerning his literary legacy. The German reading list at Harvard University listed only one title by Zweig - Die Welt von Gestern - just to provide a "flavor" of the cultural scene in fin de siècle Vienna.
Zweig's critical reception was always problematic since there is a disconnect between his traditional literary style - rooted in the 19th century novella - and the content informed by modern insights into human psychology (funny, the same critics don't have problems with Thomas Mann). Zweig did try - successfully - the longer format of the novel (see my review of Ungeduld des Herzen) , but the novella was his preferred format. Leo Cary writes in the New Yorker piece:
"Zweig called the novella "my beloved but unfortunate format, too long for a newspaper or magazine, too short for a book." But in German literature, which largely missed out on big nineteenth-century novels, it's a genre with a venerable literary pedigree - invented, more or less, by Goethe, and refined by figures like Heinrich von Kleist and Paul Heyse. The novella's pared-down format, its atmosphere of tightly controlled senstaionalism, and its focus on a single, drmamtic turning point suited Zweig's sensibility."
In his novellas Zweig was able to explore modern themes and cultural undercurrents that resonate yet today. His brilliant final work - Schachnovelle- deals with psychological torture and the debilitating effects of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation. His 1927 novella Verwirrung der Gefühle was a breakthrough in its straightforward handling of the then taboo subject of homosexuality.
It was Zweig's familiarity with the works of Sigmund Freud - and later, his personal friendship with the great man himself - that makes the psychological dimensions of his fiction so compelling. And it may also provide a clue to Zweig's suicide. Zweig initially resisted, but later came to accept, Freud's concept of Thanatos - the death wish - which in 1942 must have seemed ascendant. Towards the end of Die Welt von Gestern Zweig writes about some of his last conversations with Freud:
Ich hatte in jenen Stunden mit Freud oftmals über das Grauen der hitlerischen Welt und des Krieges gesprochen. Er war als menschlicher Mensch tief erschüttert, aber als Denker keineswegs verwundert über diesen fürchterlichen Ausbruch der Bestialität. Immer habe man ihn, sagte er, einen Pessimisten gescholten, weil er die Übermacht der Kultur über die Triebe geleugnet habe; nun sehe man - freilich maehe es ihn nicht stolz - seine Meinung, dass das Barbarische, dass der elemantare Vernichtungstrieb in der menschlichen Seele unausrottbar sei, auf das entsetzlichste bestätigt.
(I had many conversations with Freud about the horrors of Hitler and the war. He was deeply shaken as a feeling human being, but as a thinker was hardly surprised by this terrible outbreak of bestiality. He noted that people were always accusing him of being a pessimist for not agreeing that culture can trump basic human drives. But now one could see - and he was in no way proud of this - that he was right = that barbarism and the impulse for self-destruction could never be eradicated from the human soul.
Zweig no longer wanted to live in a world where barbarism had destroyed everything that gave meaning to his life.
been interesting to observe the reaction from the German press with the
raging abortion debate ignited by US Senate candidate Todd Akin's
comments concerning "legitimate" rape. Here is what Akin said:
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
German news outlets struggled to explain to readers and views what is meant by "legitimate rape". Here is the Tagesschau:
Nicht nur die Aussage
Akins ansich hat für Debatten gesorgt, sondern auch die Mehrdeutigkeit
des englischen Wortes "legitimate". Der Politiker sagte: "If it's a
legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole
thing down." Das kann übersetzt werden als "legitime Vergewaltigung"
oder als "echte Vergewaltigung".
Es lässt sich nicht eindeutig
sagen, welche Unterscheidung Akin mit seiner Formulierung treffen
wollte: Die zwischen einer "tatsächlichen" und einer "vorgetäuschten"
Vergewaltigung oder - noch heftiger - zwischen einer "berechtigten" und
einer "nicht berechtigten".
But for any observer of American politics over the past decade, Akin's words are quite familiar. It is a matter of faith among Republicans and southern KKKristians that women are fundamentally "sluts", and if they claim that a pregnancy was caused by a rape they are lying - in fact, they "wanted" the sex. For in a "legitimate" rape - where a woman is beaten to within an inch of her life - the female body releases secret "secretions" that prevent fertilization of the woman's egg. This is what evangelical "Christians" call "God's Little Shield".
What is the origin of this junk science espoused by Akin and his Republican colleagues? According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, from Akin's home state of Missouri, the idea stems from experiments conducted by Nazi doctors on Jewish women at the death camps:
In supporting his claim about trauma and ovulation, Mecklenburg cited experiments conducted in Nazi death camps.
Nazis tested this hypothesis "by selecting women who were about to
ovulate and sending them to the gas chambers, only to bring them back
after their realistic mock-killing, to see what the effect this had on
their ovulatory patterns. An extremely high percentage of these women
did not ovulate."
I have been unable to confirm this information about the Nazi experiments. But it is interesting that Todd Akin serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. How reassuring that someone as ignorant as Todd Akin is determining the nation's policy on scientific research.
Money-laundering has always been an easy and virtually risk-free - and highly profitable business - for banks, So it comes as no surprise that Deutsche Bank would be engaged in this illegal activity as well:
Federal and state prosecutors are investigating Deutsche Bank and several other global banks over accusations that they funneled billions of dollars through their American branches for Iran, Sudan and other sanctioned nations, according to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the cases.
Since 2009, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department and the Manhattan district attorney’s office, working largely in concert, have brought charges against five foreign banks, contending they moved billions of dollars through their American subsidiaries on behalf of Iran, Cuba and North Korea, sponsors of terrorism and drug cartels.
Sadly, cases such as this usually end up with the bank paying several hundred $$millions in settlement payments to US authorities. More substantive penalties - such as rescinding Deutsche Bank's US banking charter - would never be considered. And so we can wait for the next - inevitable - scandal.
The scandal surrounding the bothched police investigation into the NSU (National Socialist Underground) murders puts a spotlight on neo-Nazi activities in Germany. Now the Washington Postis sounding the alarm:
"Although security services were keeping an eye on neo-Nazi groups, official assessments declared that the threat of right-wing terrorism was insignificant. But while resources were being concentrated on Islamist extremism, a small cell of neo-Nazis went undetected while it killed 10 people, nine of them with immigrant backgrounds, over seven years.
Police never suspected a right-wing connection — they found it only after the neo-Nazis virtually dropped into their laps after a bungled bank robbery. Last week, Germany installed a new head of its equivalent to the FBI. He has sworn to overhaul the country’s intelligence services."
The most prominent neo-Nazi group in Germany is the National Democratic Party of Germany - The People's Union (NPD). The party, which was founded in 1964, promotes a racial kind of nationalism and calls for Germany's borders in 1937 to be reinstated. For some time there have been calls to ban the party (Parteiverbot). Should that happen, the neo-Nazi activist Christian Worcht has founded a new party - Die Rechte - The Right Party. Worcht hopes to replicate the success of Die LINKE - the Left Party, which has won state and municipal elections in eastern Germany.
There's plenty of information on Die Rechte on the party's official Web site - including an eighteen-page position paper(pdf warning). The primary concern of Worcht and Die Rechte appears to be preservation of German identity - with the greatest threat coming not from Muslim immigrants but rather from America:
Die Deutsche Kultur mit seinen zahlreichen Prägungen ist in der ganzen Vielfalt zu erhalten und zufördern. Insbesondere Vereine, die sich mit der Pflege von Traditionen, regionaler oder gesamtdeutscher Geschichte, Kunst und Musik verdient machen, sind staatlich zu fördern. Gleichzeitig sind übermäßige fremde Einflüsse, wie z.B. die Amerikanisierung zurück zu drängen und durch ein Wiederentdecken der eigenen Kultur zu ersetzen.
(German culture in all its splendor and manifestations must be preserved and advanced. The government must support especially those local clubs whose mission is to foster the pan-German traditions in history, art and music. At the same time, we must do everything in our power to suppress foreign influences - especially the Americanization - and replace it by rediscovering our own heritage.)
It is interesting that the anti-Americanism of the RIght Party mirrors the anti-Americanism of the Left Party.
We Americans now owe Mitt Romney a debt of gratitude for selecting Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his ruuning mate. Up to now, Romney has been deliberately vague about his plans should he win the White House, as he's tried to appease the Tea Party zealots while reaching out to moderate and independent voters. But now, with the choice of Paul Ryan, Romney presents Americans with a clear choice for the future of the republic. Ryan will accelerate the nation's progress to becoming a perfect oligarchy; there is nothing vague about his plans at all. The vision is outlined for all to see in his Roadmap for the Future, endorsed by Mitt Romney and virtually every other Republican politician.
Ryan is a follower of the radical libertarian huckster Ayan Rand, and as such views America's (already threadbare) social safety net programs with disdain. His plan, which he trumpets at every opportunity, is to cut the tax burden on the wealthy Americans by $4 trillion over time; this wealth transfer from the middle class to the rich would be paid for by eviscerating every conceivable public program, from food stamps, to public education, to Medicare and Social Security. The beneficiaries would be people like MItt Romney, who made $millions at Bain Capital by shipping American jobs to China and India, and then hoards his wealth in Swiss Bank accounts and other offshore tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Yes the choice for November 2012 could not be any clearer. Here is the view of Der Standard - Klare Wahl für die USA:
Auch Romneys Wirtschaftsprogramm ist erzkonservativ. Aber im Vorwahlkampf hat er sich immer wieder etwas moderater gegeben als seine republikanischen Rivalen. Mit Ryan an seiner Seite ist diese Option versperrt: Der junge Abgeordnete ist der intellektuelle Kopf hinter einem radikal-liberalen Programm im Sinne der Tea Party, das Amerikas ohnehin spärlichen Sozialstaat komplett abbauen würde.
(Romney's economic policy is very conservative. But during the primaries he presented himself as more moderate than his Republican rivals. With Ryan at his side that option is eliminated: The young Congressman is the intellectual force behind a radical-libertarian policy endorsed by the Tea Party, which would tear down what is left of America's frayed social programs.)
And choosing Paul Ryan as a running mate also carries significant risks for Romney and for the Republicans in November, as the Handelsblatt points out:
Und dennoch geht Romney mit der Personalie Ryan ein hohes Risiko ein. Denn wer konkret wird, wird angreifbar. Obama wird sich deshalb lustvoll in seinen Wahlkampfreden auf all die Grausamkeiten stürzen, die sich der Vize-Kandidat in seinem Plan ausgedacht hat. Er wird Ryan wie auch schon Romney als den Totengräber der Mittelschicht darstellen, als Anti-Robin-Hood, der den Armen nimmt und den Reichen gibt. In ersten Reaktionen freuten sich die Demokraten bereits auf den Kampf.
(Picking Ryan carries a high risk for Mitt Romney, since you become a target once your policies become concrete. Obama will be sure to pounce on the cruelties contained in the vice presidential candidate's plan. He will portray Ryan along with Romney as a gravedigger of the middle class, as the anti-Robin Hood who takes from the poor to give to the rich. Democrats will relish this fight. )
WIth Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket, Americans will have the opportunity in November to bury the Tea Party once and for all.
Ever since 23 year-old Nadja Drygalla, a rower for the German Olympic team, felt compelled to leave the Olympic Village because her boyfriend was active in the neo-Nazi NPD, the case has pre-occupied the German media. And even the New York Times took notice:
So while the rest of the world talks about the sprinter Usain Bolt and the swimmer Michael Phelps, Germany debates the past and future of a single rower on the women’s eight that did not even make the finals. The case is making “big waves,” as Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich put it on Monday. A parliamentary committee will discuss the controversy in a hearing next month, according to Dagmar Freitag, the sports committee chairwoman.
The case raises all kinds of questions. Is Ms. Drygalla being persecuted for the belief system of her boyfriend? Is this another case where the German authorities failed to recognize right-wing extremism?
The German right-wing media outlets are outraged at the treatment of the young woman. The neo-fascist weekly Junge Freiheit screamed "Character assasination" (Rufmord!). And the neo-Nazi NPD - absurdly and grotesquely - compared Ms. Drygalla's ordeal to the persecution of minorities under a Nazi dictatorship:
Was hier geschehen ist, erinnert stark an das Vorgehen in Diktaturen!
(What happened here is reminiscent of dictatorship!)
But some in the mainstream media were also unhappy with the way things turned out in London for Nadja Drygalla. Barbara Hans, writing in Der Spiegel, accused the German Olympic officials of extreme overreaction and hypocrisy for hounding the young woman out of the Olympic Village:
Politik und Sportfunktionäre haben die Frage nach ihrer Haltung schlicht mit Aktionismus überdeckt. Weg mit ihr, und zwar so schnell es geht. Sie haben sich zu profilieren versucht als wackere Kämpfer gegen rechts. Damit bloß niemand hinterher hätte sagen können, man habe sich nicht klar positioniert. Das Ergebnis ist nicht Haltung. Es ist Heuchelei.
(The politicians and sports officials have covered over questions concerning their conduct by taking action. Get rid of her - and as quickly as possible. They had to show that they were in charge and were willing to fight against right-wing extremism. Just so noone could say later that they were not decisive. The result is not conduct. It is pure hypocrisy.).
On the other hand, Angelo D'Abundo in Der Freitag sees the case as disturbing evidence that right-wing extremism in Germany is not just a fringe movement, and, by focusing just on one woman - Nadja Drygalla - the media is ignoring a much bigger problem:
Schon wieder muss die deutsche Öffentlichkeit nach dem NSU-Skandal eine Rechtsextremismus-Debatte führen. Und dabei verfestigt sich eine äußerst unangenehme Gewissheit: Rechtsextremismus ist kein Problem des politischen Rands, sondern der Mitte der Bundesrepublik.
(Once again - following on the heels of the NSU scandal - the German public is forced to debate the issue of right-wing extremism. And this unfortunately leads to the irrefutable conclusion: Right-wing extremism is not just a problem of the political fringe, but is rather square at the center of the Federal Republic.)
RIght-wing extremism is no laughing matter - as we learned here in the US earlier this week after a neo-Nazi committed mass murder at a Sikh temple.
America and Germany have always had a robust cultural exchange. The American Nazi Party has been around since the inception of the NSDAP in Germany in the 1920s. But until last week I had no idea that the Ku Klux Klan - that quintessential American racist group - had a sister organization in Germany:
A racism scandal is unfolding in Germany this week following the revelation that two police officers in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg had been members of a German spin-off group of the Klu Klux Klan. The two men are still serving in uniform -- one on the normal police force and the other as a squad commander for riot-control police. The state's Interior Ministry on Wednesday confirmed reports that the men had been involved with a group that called itself the European White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan (EWK).
The development has left many officials dumbfounded. How, they are asking, could public officers who swear an oath to protect the constitution have been members of a racist organization? Officials first uncovered the links during an ongoing investigation of the murderous National Socialist Underground (NSU) neo-Nazi terror cell. Between 2000 and 2007, the group allegedly murdered at least nine small businessmen of mainly Turkish descent, along with one policewoman, Michèle Kiesewetter. The two police officers with alleged Klu Klux Klan links also happened to be Kiesewetter's former colleagues.
Some background on the German Klan can be found on the quite informative blog of the Teutonic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in North Rhine Westphalia. Evidently there have been KKK groups active in Germany since the 1920s. Today, thanks to the anti-immigrant movement, there is renewed interest in the Klan and its ideals:
In Anlehnung an die nordisch-germanische Ausrichtung des ersten Deutschen Ku Klux Klan, hat sich der „Orden der Teutonischen Ritter des Ku Klux Klan“ gegründet. Aus der Symbol- und Ideenwelt des Ku Klux Klan, und der nordisch-germanischen Kultur, wurde ein ganz neuer Deutscher Ku Klux Klan errichtet, der auf die Bedürfnisse unserer Zeit und unserer Kultur abgestimmt ist. Er ist eine echte Werte-, Kultus- und Kulturgemeinschaft Deutscher Christen mit germanischer Abstammung. Ihn zu fördern bedeutet: das Erbe seiner Ahnen zu ehren und Neues zu schaffen.
(Based on the Nordic-Germanic orientation of the original German Ku Klux Kan, the Oder of the Teutonic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was founded. From the symbol and ideology of the Ku Klux Klan and Nordic-Germanic culture an entirely new German Ku Klux Klan was established, which deals directly with present-day needs and culture. It is a community of German Christians with Germanic heritage commited to genuine values and culture. Its mission is to honor the legacy of our ancestors and create something new.)
It will be interesting to see whether these new reports on the Klan in Germany will energize the American Klansman David Duke to initiate more transnational activities.
Mitt Romney took his campaign abroad to show the world that he is presidential material. It was not a pretty picture, and his "gaffe-a-minute" tour succeeded insulting everyone from the British to the Palestinians to the US press corps.
Stocksteif, ideenlos, künstlich: Auf seiner Europa-Tour hat der republikanische Präsidentschaftskandidat Mitt Romney sich viele Blößen gegeben. Die Pannenserie war kein Zufall - dieser Bewerber hat den Wählern wenig anzubieten.
(Awkwardly stiff, void of ideas, artifical: on his European tour the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney exposed many vulnerablities. The series of blunders weren't simply unfortuante chance occurances - this candidate doesn't have much to offer the voters.)
Other than the billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, not many are impressed by Mitt Romney's goal to outsource US foreign policy to the Israeli Likud Party:
Romney ist nichtauthentisch. Er will der sein, den sich andere wünschen. Das macht Romney zum Kunstprodukt. Seine Kurswechsel sind legendär (Gesundheitsreform, Waffengesetze, Abtreibung), früher ging's nach links, jetzt geht's nach rechts. Immer dem Zeitgeist hinterher. Weil er den Evangelikalen daheim gefallen will, erklärt er Jerusalem entgegen jahrzehntelanger US-Politik zur Hauptstadt Israels - selbst die US-Botschaft liegt in Tel Aviv, weil Israels Annexion des arabischen Ostteils von Jerusalem international nicht anerkannt ist.
(Romney is not authentic. He wants to become whatever others wish. That makes Romney a piece of artifice. His flip-flops are legendary (healthcare reform, gun laws, abortion ) - in the past he veered left, now to the right. Always chasing the Zeitgeist. Since he wants to please the evangelicals at home, he declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel - contrary to decades of US policy. Even the US embassy is in Tel Aviv because Israel's annexation of the eastern section is not recognized.)
Now the world has seen Mitt Romney for what he really is: a vutlure-capitalist opportunist in way over his head.