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The World is on Speed

So much is going on these days. Multiple catastrophes in Japan, civilians slaughtered in Libya, cheating German defense minister, US soldiers shot in Germany, uprisings throughout the Arab world and in Wisconsin, bees disappear, Neo-Nazi changes sex and becomes a leftist etc. etc.

I find it hard to keep up, let alone form an opinion and blog about it. This is an open thread for you to discuss and share analyses of current issues important to transatlantic allies. Non-registered users can comment as well.

A few observations and comments of mine to get things started:

1. Japanese earthquake and tsunami and "nuclear catastrophe" and vulcano eruption

It seems that German TV and radio is full of pundits who warn about nuclear meltdowns and a looming catastrophe, while the BBC presents one analyst after another, who says that is all unlikely. What a contrast! I prefer the BBC in situation like this. Yet, I know that the Japanese power companies do not have a reputation of being entirely honest and the government might have good reasons to play down the dangers. Still, I believe this does not justify the shrill headlines in the German media. How's the US coverage?

My sincere sympathies to all Japanese readers! The images and news are so shocking. And yet, I am amazed how the Japanese deal with it. When I wrote about solidarity with Japan on Facebook, it did not take long, until someone responded: "I hope it works better this time than it did the last time." Come on! Nazi jokes are so lame, these days. Everybody Loves Deutschland.

2. Islamist Terror Attack in Germany

Two US soldiers were murdered at Frankfurt airport on March 2, 2011. The first deadly Islamist terror attack in Germany. The media liked to stress that he was an Einzeltäter (acting alone). That was probably supposed to play down the terrorist attack and the new threat level, but intelligence agencies are concerned about a large number of Einzeltäters doing low level terrorist attacks these days. After about two days, this terrorist attack was out of the newspapers. I don't even know how the two wounded soldiers are doing right now. I am very sorry.

3. Libya & Charlie Sheen

I doubt that a no-fly zone will be sufficient to stop the bloodshed. Since neither Europe nor the US has the stomach to do more, why talk about it? Interesting, how discussions about possible military interventions get repeated. The Observer asks: "Is Libya today the Iraq of 10 years ago, the Bosnia of 15 years ago or the Suez now 55 years gone? Is it Czechoslovakia as Hitler invaded? Or Vietnam? Did somebody mention Afghanistan?"

The Guardian: "Charlie Sheen v Muammar Gaddafi: whose line is it anyway? The US actor and the Libyan leader have produced some choice lines recently. Can you distinguish between them?"

4. Defense Minister Guttenberg & Charlie Sheen

"While Americans have been obsessing lately about Charlie Sheen and his live-in porn film stars, Germany has been consumed by improprieties over a doctoral thesis," writes the NYT.

First it seemed as if Guttenberg would get a way with his plagiarism and keep his post as defense minister due to his huge popularity with the people and his supposed charisma, but then the protests from PhD students and others lead to his resignation. That's good. I felt relieved that science still counts and that this strange popularity is not everything. The huge admiration for Guttenberg was scary.

What is bad, is that Guttenberg's resignation is a blow to transatlantic relations. Professor Dan Hamilton wrote an op-ed about it:

Guttenberg was the most prominent transatlanticist of his rising generation of German parliamentary leaders. Unfortunately, he was also one of the only transatlanticists. His resignation, therefore, further accelerates what has been a steady erosion of expertise on the United States in the German Bundestag.

Can't stand another mentioning of Charlie Sheen?  Better get Tinted Sheen, an "extension for the Firefox and Chrome browsers that will blot out Sheen's name anywhere it appears."

5. Endnotes

+ Former neo-Nazi becomes leftist after sex change

+ For conspiracy nuts: The Japanese Tsunami and earthquake happened on 3/11/11, which was the seventh anniversary of the Madrid train bombings AND exactly one month after the fall of Mubarak AND the same day the movie "Battle LA" movie about an alien invasion opened in US theaters AND exactly half a year before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  The world is on speed. If world events happen that quickly, then the world will end in 2012 as the Mayans predicted. How about a Tsunami in the Atlantic next month?

+ Another sign of the upcoming apocalypse?

Taking us on a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive, this engaging and ultimately uplifting film weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heartfelt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world.

Seriously, they have some very good points. Besides, our industrial agricultural is seriously messed up. And Rudolf Steiner predicted the disappearance of bees 90 years ago.

+ This is not exactly news, but with all this gloom and doom, let's have a nice and uplifting song at the end to calm our fears of the upcoming apocalypse ;-) I'M NOT A WITCH - sung by Christine O'Donnell

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Zyme on :

Guttenberg will return :-) At least I hope so. He got to save us from this political class! For so long I thought we are bound in a gridlock political system full of bloodless vampires with no hope of significant improvement. All that time the solution has been so simple! All it takes is one straight-forward and charismatic guy :-) If Merkel's power collapses in the coming state elections, wouldn't the conservatives be at his feet to beg for salvation? :-)

Joerg Wolf on :

They can appoint him Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation. ;-) I think, more people will realize in the next few weeks that he has not done anything of substance as defense minister. Only photo-ops. Or what is your assessment of the Bundeswehr reform? Though, yes, he will be back in politics in a few years.

Marie Claude on :

"They can appoint him Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation" LMAO, I rather saw him as "Captain Stransky" the cheater of "the iron cross" some say that he was going to reform the Bundeswehr, but it was rather his "assistant" who did the work, and this poor guy got fired out by the new Minister of defense too! something goes wrong in the german best possible world !

Zyme on :

To be honest I lack the expertise to say whether this reform is brilliant or a disaster. I think he will be too tempted to stand in front of cheering crowds not to come back :-)

John in Michigan, US on :

Good post with lots of links to all sorts of stories. That "Queen of the Sun" trailer video is a prime example of what I'll call elite-populism. This form of populism is in contrast to traditional populism (Glenn Beck, Michael Moore) and represents the irrational, anti-intellectual populism of intellectuals. Take a real phenomena (colony collapse disorder, which [url=http://www.google.com/url?q=http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203771904574176231525187814.html]has already slowed[/url] and [url=http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/science/07bees.html]seems likely to be solved soon[/url]) and turn it into a metaphor for our conscience. Nature is in balance, whereas we are out of balance. But, terms like "nature" and "balance" are never defined, or else, they are defined in dogmatic terms and strong taboos are raised to prevent examination of these dogmas. For example, the whole thing is said to be 'proven' by Science. It sort of reminds me of a pagan version of the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Christ,_Scientist]Christian Scientist[/url] religion. This elite version of populism is a very strange beast. Runaway populism can be a threat to democracy. Happily, there seem to be enough conflicting forms of populism out there that it is unlikely they will all agree or align anytime soon. I remember the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africanized_Bees]Africanized Bees / "Killer Bees"[/url] panic of the late 80's/early 90's. That turned out to be a non-issue. Colony collapse is an issue, and monoculture, etc. a bigger issue, but we'll figure it out. The bees will be fine.

Joerg Wolf on :

Thanks for the comment and the links, John. "Colony collapse is an issue, and monoculture, etc. a bigger issue, but we'll figure it out." So we agree on the analysis. You are just more optimistic about the solution than I am. Are we both elite populists? ;-) I think the fondness of "Christian Scientist religion" is limited to a small group of people, thus "populism" does not quite fit.

John in Michigan, US on :

"Are we both elite populists? ;-)" I am guilty as charged! But, I am cleverly undermining that system from inside...you? "...a small group of people, thus 'populism' does not quite fit." True. I will have to think more about exactly what I was trying to say with that comparison.

Joerg Wolf on :

John, I am wondering what you think of the increasing number of young people interested in farming, and alternative farming to be more precise. Youngsters reconnecting with nature, growing real food instead of playing with iPads. I think this is a great (and funny) article, nearly as uplifting as Christine O'Donnel singing: In New Food Culture, a Young Generation of Farmers Emerges "Now, Mr. Jones, 30, and his wife, Alicia, 27, are among an emerging group of people in their 20s and 30s who have chosen farming as a career. Many shun industrial, mechanized farming and list punk rock, Karl Marx and the food journalist Michael Pollan as their influences. The Joneses say they and their peers are succeeding because of Oregon’s farmer-foodie culture, which demands grass-fed and pasture-raised meats. “People want to connect more than they can at their grocery store,” Ms. Jones said. “We had a couple who came down from Portland and asked if they could collect their own eggs. We said, ‘O.K., sure.’ They want to trust their producer, because there’s so little trust in food these days.” Garry Stephenson, coordinator of the Small Farms Program at Oregon State University, said he had not seen so much interest among young people in decades. “It’s kind of exciting,” Mr. Stephenson said. “They’re young, they’re energetic and idealist, and they’re willing to make the sacrifices.”" [url]http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/us/06farmers.html[/url]

John in Michigan, US on :

Very few of children of the old, local farm families are continuing to farm, so there is a lost generation. We have a lot of organic farming near me, but it is mostly "gentlemen farmers" (and gentlewomen), meaning people who arranged for an early retirement or a second career. Neverthless, they are hiring some of the young people and so there is some hope for the next generation. I am interested in organic farming, although I find it includes a lot of unnecessary ideological baggage. I think most of the organic health claims are unsupported, or else, they are the placebo effect, or something like that. I think organic farming, done right, is actually better for the environment. An example of organic farming done wrong is lettuce prepared under immaculate conditions in California, then shipped fresh by jet all over the country...if it isn't local, it isn't organic. And local food produced by regular or quasi-organic methods is better than non-local food. I like organic farming because of the practical aspects -- either you grow something, or you don't, therefore it is harder to fudge the data. Whereas in politics and economics, it is easy to fudge the data.

David on :

The nuclear disaster in Japan appears to be spiraling out of control. On Saturday I was finally able to contact my 10-year-old nephew in Tokyo via his mother's facebook account (phone contact was still impossible). He is unable to sleep because of the aftershocks, and now some are beginning to evacuate Tokyo because of radiation fears.

John in Michigan, US on :

Best wishes to everyone involved.

Marie Claude on :

"I doubt that a no-fly zone will be sufficient to stop the bloodshed. Since neither Europe nor the US has the stomach to do more, why talk about it? Interesting, how discussions about possible military interventions get repeated." UK & France would have done somthing if they weren't stopped by the EU buffoons, lead by Westervelle and Merkel. One would know if these two had any knowledge in warfare and terrorism. Now, it's probably too late Kadhafi is regaining his territory, and wll become the terrorist he was. So, the stand-by and the backdown positions of these feebleEU leaders will not avoid that their country may be hit by Kadhafi the new reborn terrorist.

John in Michigan, US on :

I was impressed by the UK-French display of unity. But, what was said behind the scenes? If it was understood by all that there would be no action without yet another UN resolution, then the UK-French position was just for show. I am beginning to think it is too late for any meaningful action.

Marie Claude on :

"What if Qaddafi Wins?" Michael J. Totten http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/03/13/what-if-qaddafi-wins/ to stop Kadhafi wouldn't have been as much difficult as it was advertized, no need of a no fly zone, only a few targets to hit would have been necessary http://www.lepoint.fr/chroniqueurs-du-point/jean-guisnel/une-intervention-europeenne-en-libye-se-dessine-07-03-2011-1303637_53.php Besides We did such a operation on Kadhafi in 1987 on Ouadi-Doum, a northern Chad libyan base http://www.opex360.com/2011/03/10/le-precedent-de-ouadi-doum/

Marie Claude on :

woah "Libyan Rebels May Have Used a MiG-23 to Sink Two of Ghadafi’s Warships http://defensetech.org/2011/03/15/libyan-rebels-may-have-used-a-mig-23-to-sink-two-of-ghadafis-warships/ so they understood that no westerner would help them

Marie Claude on :

“Military intervention is not the solution. From our point of view it is very difficult and dangerous,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters. Any involvement, he said, “would lead to a weakening of the democratic movement in North Africa. We want the opposite: a strengthening of the democratic movement.” Gadhafi praises Germany, rips West Germany’s hands-off approach clearly pleased Gadhafi, who praised its stance in an interview on Tuesday with commercial German television station RTL. “Germans have taken a good stance on our situation, unlike many other Western countries,” Gadhafi told RTL, adding “forget the West.” He said that in the future, only Russia, India and China would get Libyan oil or other Libyan business. But because of its opposition to the no-fly zone, Germany could also possibly get oil, he said, adding: “Germany … not France … deserves a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.” http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14911884,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

Zyme on :

:-) Personally I would have preferred a European takeover of the country - it would have been such a great chance. Humanitarian intervention and then simply stay there and create a puppet government. But yes, Germany's behavior is more in line with the way these things are handled here traditionally.

Marie Claude on :

The EU is a buffoonery !

Joerg Wolf on :

The Iraq debate reignites in Germany: Just replace Iraq with Libya and SPD with FDP and CDU with SPD. The Foreign Minister (Liberal Democrats) is totally against an intervention in Libya before the UN vote tonight just like Schroeder in 2002 re Iraq. The Social Democrats criticize him with some of the same arguments that have been made against Schroeder in 2002. That's chuzpe! Tagesspiegel: Außenminister Guido Westerwelle (FDP) schloss unmittelbar vor Beginn der Sicherheitsratssitzung eine deutsche Teilnahme an einer Militärintervention in Libyen kategorisch aus. „Wir Deutsche werden uns auch international nicht an einem Krieg in Libyen beteiligen“, sagte er. Die SPD warf ihm vor, Deutschland aus wahltaktischen Motiven international zu isolieren. Westerwelles „durchsichtiger Versuch, hier in letzter Minute vor den Landtagswahlen ein friedenspolitisches Image zu gewinnen, kann Deutschland teuer zu stehen kommen“, sagte Fraktionsvize Gernot Erler dem Tagesspiegel. Mit der frühzeitigen Festlegung auf ein Nein zu einer Flugverbotszone habe sich Deutschland „jeglichen Verhandlungsspielraum im UN-Sicherheitsrat verbaut“, kritisierte der Ex-Staatsminister im Auswärtigen Amt. Ziel müsse viel mehr sein, durch Verhandlungsgeschick eine „größtmögliche Drohkulisse gegen das verbrecherische Gaddafi-Regime“ aufzubauen. http://www.tagesspiegel.de/zeitung/gaddafis-truppen-sprechen-von-saeuberung/3962270.html

Zyme on :

I've just read the UN Resolution has been passed ?!? What a surprise!! But I wouldn't consider Westerwelle's move as suprising - there are state elections (again...) to be held soon. And whenever that is the case (85 % of the time) the politics in Berlin is totally paralyzed. Hail to federalism, the grave of our future.

Marie Claude on :

is it a sign: Germany abstained with Russia and China but The US are claiming the leadership, up to tonight, they weren't "warm" to get involved !

Zyme on :

Surely part of the motivation was similar with China and Russia - namely keep a sustainable level of political cooperation for the future, should Ghaddafi prevail. Otherwise energy security will be impaired. But Marie, the biggest part surely is the election thing here. Don't expect any kind of politics that goes beyond what government and opposition consider to be the most efficient populism.

Marie Claude on :

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,751804,00.html

Marie Claude on :

uh tell him to imagine if it was Ukrainia, I bet he would find the good arguments

Zyme on :

There is a third way actually, next to supporting or not supporting the airstrikes: Now that the coalition of the willing has stopped all armored forces against the rebels, Gaddafi is in need of good ideas. IF the German government believes that the rebels will not prevail against Gaddafi, it might as well be the right time to secretly support the dictator so that we gain exclusive energy trading opportunities after the struggle ended. Delivering weapons to him after his recent actions would of course create too much of a diplomatic fallout. But isn't Bouteflika worried about his future, too? If we supplied Lybia's neighbour, Algeria, with a significant amount of modern firearms while also making Bouteflika aware of the fact that he stabilizes his own position most effectively by sending half of these weapons across the border to Gaddafis minions, so that they can deal with the uprisings quickly... Wouldn't that make sense for everyone involved? :-)

Pat Patterson on :

And then Germany also has to consider getting caught shipping war material to Gaddafi the day after an Italian or French aircraft is shot down or lost. or even worse a Harrier off of the Kearsage. Not likely.

John in Michigan, US on :

Partition into W and E Libya would make more sense than the Zyme plan :-P And I don't particularly like partition. We will see what happens. I really like the idea of the French (or the British) finally taking the lead, as long as no ground troops are involved. Still, we have the possible nightmare of special forces caught on the ground due to indecision, fubar command structure, etc. (Somalia) As to how this plays out in the big, trans-regional picture (middle east, N. Africa, Persia) is anyone's guess. This Feb 2009 MEMRI study "[url=http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3281.htm]An Escalating Regional Cold War[/url]" by By: Y. Carmon, Y. Yehoshua, A. Savyon, and H. Migron seems to have made sense of the shifting alliances in the region. The Middle Eastern Cold War has gone hot.

Marie Claude on :

"Partition into W and E Libya would make more sense" It is likely to happen, the Benghazi population doen't want that Tripoli directs them anymore. Besides they are more encline to sympathize with the Egyptian Brotherhood. Egypt is playing its part with the Unit 777 on the ground that organize the "Rebels" and provide them arms. But some say that the Libyan campain isn't a ponstaneous campain, that it was planned by Pentagon, just that it needed to wait for the opportunity that Kadhafi gave on a tray. The surpopulated Egypt is a remnent potential bomb for its neighbours, especially for Israel. Partition of Libya (huge territory with 8 millions inhabitants) would need some room to Egypt, it's a equilibrium geopolitical redistribution, endorsed by the whole coalition. That's probably why Kadhafi is ready to fight until the last Libyan (well his tribe) I read that Germany and Russia aren't opposed to send "peacekeepers" after that Kadhafi's troops will be defeated. The oddy thing is that the US keeps saying that they don't want to overthrow Kadhafi, and that the Brits, and the French want him out. uh since Kadhafi's palace is half kaputt, he'll have to search a asile, may-be Germany ! ;-)

Marie Claude on :

"would need some room" would give some room sorry

John in Michigan, US on :

There is a shorter summary of the ME Cold War thesis at http://www.danielpipes.org/6406/middle-eastern-cold-war I highly recommend this article, it really explains a great deal and suggests a framework for understanding the current events. It also points to the intellectual bankruptcy of traditional, Middle Eastern Studies departments, which are stuck trying to explain the region in terms of either a) class conflict or b) Palestine.

Marie Claude on :

"But isn't Bouteflika worried about his future, too?" He isn't disturbing for the moment, well for the coalised westernies !

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