Basil Fawlty’s insanity almost becomes Bank of England policy

I do believe that one of the funniest things ever shown on TV is the episode of Fawlty Towers (a show that ran from 1975-1979) in which Basil Fawlty welcomes four German guests to his seaside hotel.  He’s told not to mention the war, lest he offend the Germans, but he cannot help himself:

As is happening way too often lately, life in the 21st century has gone from amusing satire to dysfunctional seriousness.  This is the news out of England today:

Bank of England bosses thought twice about putting Sir Winston Churchill on the new £5 note – because they didn’t want to upset the Germans.

Officials warned Sir Mervyn King, then Governor of the Bank of England, that Churchill’s wartime record might make him highly controversial, documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday show.

[snip]

In a memo dated April 11, 2012, Sir Mervyn was advised Churchill will be a popular choice because of his ‘broad name recognition’ and the public’s ‘very affectionate view’ of him as a wartime leader. But officials also warned him that ‘the recentness of World War II is a living memory for many here and on the Continent’.

[snip]

Officials also warned Sir Mervyn of Churchill’s ‘disastrous’ decision to return Britain to the gold standard in the 1920s. Churchill’s critics at the time claimed the move, with the backing of the Bank of England, produced the mass unemployment, deflation and industrial strife of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Bank staff who conducted ‘considerable research’ into Churchill’s role in the debacle noted: ‘If academics do pick up on the move to the gold standard it is likely they will refer to the role of the Bank and Churchill’s own criticism of the Bank.’

We shouldn’t be surprised by this thinking, though. The same government body was worried about using Jane Austen’s image on a bank note in case something shady emerged about her private life.  (For those who are not fanatic Austen fans, she lived her whole life with her family; never married; wrote exquisite social comedies that were also strong morality stories; and left virtually nothing of herself behind other than her work, since her beloved sister Cassandra destroyed almost all of her letters.)

Hamburg and Kiel

We went to Hamburg today. And that’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject. My back is a lot better, though, so that’s very good news indeed.

Warnemunde and Wismar, Germany

We landed in Warnemunde today, which is the closest port to Berlin. Rather than making the three hour trip to Berlin, we opted to stay in Warnemunde, which is one of the Hanseatic cities. We signed up with a tour called “Friends of Dave,” which offered a tour of Warnemunde and Wismar (both part of the former East Germany).

Warnemunde is a small beach town which had a very poor time of it until it got designated in the 18th century as a spa town. It’s got little medieval houses and bigger late 19th century and early 20th century houses and hotels. And it wasn’t particularly memorable.

Wismar, however, was another thing altogether. It is the most complete medieval town I’ve ever seen. Unlike many of the Hanseatic towns, only 10% of Wismar suffered allied bombing during WWII. It got increasingly shabby under Communist rule, but the buildings remained intact. Since reunification, almost all of the town has been restored. Some neighborhoods have been restored to their medieval look, some to their 18th century look, and some to their fin de siècle look.

It is a gem of a town. I’m not much of a photographer, but I couldn’t stop taking pictures. It has one of only two BRICK gothic churches in Europe — more than 3 million bricks went into its construction. Inside, it has many of its original murals, including a complete “Jesse Tree,” an exquisite painting that covers an entire towering wall and shows Jesus’s lineage. It also has a gigantic painting of St. Christopher.

There are also some 14th century carvings, including a triptych. The medieval Germans weren’t great at painting (their style was somewhat primitive compared to Flemish painters of the same time), but their carving is delightful. The Wismar carvings don’t compare to Tilman Riemanshneider’s work, but they are simultaneously sophisticated and folksie.

Everywhere one looks in Wismar, one sees examples of brick half-timber houses, Dutch-gabled houses, entirely brick houses, and German Gothic houses — and all have been beautifully restored. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. And for those who like a little 20th century that doesn’t involve either WWII or Communism, the silent movie horror classic “Nosferatu” was filmed there.

The whole town was a pleasure. I was tired by the end of our 11 hour day though. I managed to throw my back out yesterday morning, and being upright and walking 8 hours over cobble stones, even with Ibuprofin on board, took a lot of energy out of me. I’m happy to be writing in a quiet spot now. I think, though, my back will be up to par for Hamburg tomorrow.

I’m homesick, and there are still 16 more days to go. The great thing, though, is that most of those 16 days are on a cruise ship, so no packing, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, or cleaning. That’s the prize and I need to keep my eye on it.

And that is that.

A perfect illustration of how the Left counterattacks

The mosque debate in America has been instructive when it comes to Leftist rhetorical tactics.  Ordinary Americans make an argument — “the mosque is inappropriate on secular sacred ground.”  The Left then responds, not substantively, but with personal attacks — “you’re racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic and stupid.”

If you think this approach to debate is limited to the American Left, think again.  Precisely the same thing is playing out in Germany.  There, Thilo Sarrazin, a German central bank board member and former senior city official in Berlin, has given an interview and published a book, both of which carry the same message:  Germany is being destroyed by its Muslim immigrants, who take a disproportionate amount of welfare relative to their contributions, who do not contribute to the nation’s intellectual life, and who are having children at a much faster rate than the Germans themselves.

The Leftist response has been predictable.  They’ve produced carefully detailed statistics showing the major economic and social contributions that Muslim immigrants are making to Germany society, and proved that the birthrate argument is a fallacy.  In the face of these reasoned arguments, Sarrazin has backed down.  They’ve hurled myriad personal insults at Sarrazin, and threatened his right to free speech:

Sarrazin’s comments have also made waves outside of the SPD. Green Party head Cem Özdemir called Sarrazin a “tribal leader in the mold of bin Laden” in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE and said that he has done a “disservice to efforts aimed at improving the dramatic social inequalities in our country, and not just among immigrants.” He said he was disappointed because “the ongoing debate over mutual expectations of Germans and immigrants is much more rational than Sarrazin makes it seem.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel is likewise unimpressed. Through her spokesman Steffen Seibert, she said on Wednesday that Sarrazin’s offerings were “extremely injurious, defamatory and very polemical.” She also called them “completely unhelpful” and said that “a different tone is necessary.”

[snip]

Following Sarrazin’s comments last autumn, the SPD began proceedings to kick him out of the party, but the attempt failed in March. He was, however, disciplined by the German Central Bank, which stripped him of his previous responsibility for cash management as a result of the Lettre International interview. It is unclear whether the SPD will make another effort to strike him from the rolls.

No matter in which country you drop a Leftist, he’s still a Leftist, committed to doctrinal purity regardless of objective reality.

The lessons about bullies that we seem determined not to learn

So often, there are what I call “matched sets” of stories in newspapers.  This happens when one article makes a point, and another article perfectly illustrates that point.  Today, Spiegel provided the perfect pairing of the way in which the modern Western (that is, Leftist) world refuses to learn lessons, but insists on repeating the fatal mistakes of yesteryear.  The first article, part of a collection Spiegel is running to mark the 70th anniversary of WWII’s beginning, points to the fact that Europe’s appeasement stance was like steroid juice to Hitler, spurring him on to ever greater heights of aggression:

In the years leading up to World War II, Britain and France underestimated just how determined Adolf Hitler was in his lust for conquest. The failure of Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement meant war was inevitable.

[snip]

Chamberlain, the conservative product of a family of politicians, was part of a large faction that sought to appease Germany by fulfilling its wishes, provided they appeared legitimate and were not enforced with violence.

Appeasement was a policy that fed on emotions as well as intellect, at least with Chamberlain. The British prime minister had lost his beloved cousin in World War I. From then on, he advocated the basic principle of all pacifists: Wars have no winners, only losers.

[snip]

Historians have since realized that the military situation for the Western Allies was far from hopeless. Hitler had exposed western Germany by moving troops eastward for the invasion of Czechoslovakia. In addition, Germany’s gasoline reserves were barely sufficient for a four-month military campaign. Significantly, senior German military officials feared a world war. A small group, which included Beck and Weizsäcker, even planned to stage a coup in the event that war broke out.

But while Hitler shrugged off his generals’ warnings — “I know that England will remain neutral,” he said — the worst-case scenarios being painted by British and French experts played into the hands of those politicians who wanted to avoid war at all costs.

There’s so much more (and I urge you to read the whole article), but the above certainly makes the point: “I know that England will remain neutral.” A natural bully can immediately tell when his victim is going to abase himself for good ‘n all.

One would think that Germany, of all countries, would understand that, once bullies get a head of steam from dealing with compliant victims, little can stop them short of the brutist of brute force.  Yet the same day saw this article about a judge’s supine position in the face of demands from a known terrorist:

In Germany, it seems, it’s okay to name children “Jihad.” A Berlin court has ruled that the name Djehad is neither denigrating nor offensive — even if the child’s father is a man considered by German intelligence agents and the United States to be one of the country’s most radical Islamists.

A Berlin court ruled this week that a man suspected of being one of Germany’s leading radical Islamists, can name his son “Djehad,” an alternative spelling of the Arabic word jihad. A city official had previously rejected the name because of its connotation of Islamic holy war.

A city official said it had rejected listing the name in the city’s birth registry because it could endanger the child’s welfare. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States, the term “jihad,” which in the West is usually regarded as meaning “holy war,” has had negative connotations in Germany. The child’s father himself, German-Egyptian Reda Seyam, is being monitored by German intelligence agencies and is known to have fought as a jihadist in Bosnia.

But this week a local superior court, following previous rulings in an administrative court and a regional court, said the name was unobjectionable.

In its ruling overturning the city’s decision, the court argued that “Djehad” is a common first name for Arab males that also evokes the duty of Muslims to promote their faith both spiritually and within society. The use of the word as a first name, the court argued, was in no way denigrating or offensive.

The court conceded that, in recent years, radical Islamists have used the term to express the idea of an armed struggle against people who don’t share their faith. But that could not justify a restriction of the right of the parents to choose their child’s name as they see fit, they said, adding that the parent’s motives for selecting the name were irrelevant.

Again, I urge you to read the whole article, but the cited material gives you a sense of the way in which the German intelligentsia is bound and determined to worship at the feet of its new overlords.

The price to free Gilad Shalit

This month marks the third anniversary of Gilad Shalit’s long imprisonment with the Palestinians who kidnapped him.  Although it doesn’t seem to show up in American press, German and Israeli outlets are reporting that the Germans (!?) have brokered a deal for his release.  Here’s Der Spiegel:

Three years ago he was kidnapped by Hamas. Will Israeli solder Gilad Shalit soon be freed as a result of negotiations conducted by Germany’s BND foreign intelligence service? Under a proposal forwarded by the Germans, at least 450 Palestinians would be released in exchange for the soldier. The deal must still be approved by Hamas.

Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, has put forward a concrete proposal in negotiations for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, Israel would release at least 450 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. After his release, the Israeli government has expressed a willingness to release further prisoners.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that the prisoner releases be done as a humanitarian gesture and without any time pressure. Hamas has been given until the beginning of September to respond to the proposal.

The same story has been picked up in Israeli media sites, such as the Jerusalem Post and YNet news, although neither offers independent Israeli corroboration for the story.  The only corroboration comes from Palestinians, and I don’t count them as an historically reliable source.  According to the JPost:

Asked to comment on reports in some Arab media outlets about a breakthrough in the negotiations, [Hamas legislator] Bardaweel said: “It’s premature to talk about a deal. The German mediators are still in the process of gathering information.”

Bardaweel said that reports to the effect that a deal was imminent were aimed at exerting pressure on Hamas regarding the case of Schalit.

He added that the ball as still in the Israeli court and that if Israel really wanted to reach a deal, it could do so quickly by accepting the demands of Schalit’s captors.

Bardaweel said that despite the involvement of German mediators in the negotiations, the Egyptians were continuing to play a role to bridge the gap between Hamas and Israel.

Sources close to Hamas said that Ahmed Ja’bari, commander of the movement’s armed wing, was still in Cairo for talks with Egyptian General Intelligence officials about the prospects of reaching a deal with Israel.

YNet news expands upon the reference in the JPost article to Palestinian newspapers touting a deal:

Prisoner swap’s details have been finalized, sides await Netanyahu government’s approval, Palestinian newspaper al-Manar reports; Shalit expected to be transferred to Egypt in first phase of deal

Coming back home? A swap for the release of IDF captive Gilad Shalit has been finalized and awaits Israel’s approval, Palestinian newspaper al-Manar reported Saturday.

According to the report, all details of the deal have been worked out and the parties are now waiting for the Netanyahu government to endorse the agreement.

The United States and Syria played a key role in finalizing the deal, the paper said, nothing that this involvement prompted both Israel and Hamas to show more flexible positions.

According to the newspaper, the first phase of the deal will see Shalit handed over to Egypt following the release of Palestinian prisoners to the West Bank and Gaza. Sources in the know are quoted as saying that Israeli officials have expressed great reservations over the heavy price to be paid by Jerusalem in exchange for Shalit. Hence, the sources said, both PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak wish to see a broad public campaign that would pave the way for the deal’s approval.

As for me, I don’t trust either source, whether German or Palestinian.  The Germans have never been power brokers in the modern Mid-East, and their sudden emergence now is suspect.  And as for the Palestinians, I already mentioned their dubious history with regard to truth.

In any event, the story only says the Palestinians have agreed — and it may have been an easy agreement to reach because it’s a no lose for them.  If the agreement reaches fruition, they get 450 fighters return to them to kill another day.  If the agreement fails, they can boast that they agreed, and Israel refused to cooperate.

On Israel’s side, I’m ambivalent.  Gilad’s captivity is one of the great unsung human rights abuses in an area that comes under the media’s (and the UN’s) obsessive watchfulness.  Had an Arab been held captive in Israel for even three months without the due process Israel routinely accords such prisoners, it would have been a cause celebre in every paper in the world on a daily basis.  I want Gilad to come home.  On the other hand, setting a price on his release of 450 prisoners creates a huge incentive for the Palestinians to kidnap again and again.  For a small effort — securing one Israeli — they get a huge return.

Decadent lifestyles of the rich and famous

Michael Knox has an absolutely fascinating bio of the amazingly decadent and recently deceased Count Gottfried von Bismarck, great-great-grandson of Otto von Bismarck, the man who took fractured German duchies and, for better or worse, united them into a single country.  In a relatively short essay, he manages to walk us through the amazingly debauched life of one member of the British cadre of “rich and famous,” while at the same time playing his life out against Otto von Bismarck’s own less alcoholic and sexualized attacks on German middle class mores.

Why don’t they just call it the “Berlin Airport”?

The reason people are disgusted with politicians, politics and committees is because of the time they waste on things like this:

Berlin’s first major international airport may be far from finished — opening day is at least four years off — but politicians have already started squabbling over its name. Should it be the Albert Einstein Airport? Marlene-Dietrich International? Or something to do with Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, the Nazi officer who led a failed plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944?

A Social Democrat in the Berlin state legislature kicked off the debate by suggesting Willy Brandt for the honor. Brandt was a mayor of West Berlin who went on to be West German chancellor in the early 1970s, during the détente or thawed phase of the Cold War. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for his policies during détente.

And on, and on, and on….

As I said in my post title, why don’t they stop wasting their time and just call it the Berlin Airport, which is what everyone else in the world will call it anyway?  On the other hand, of course, spending time on pointless tasks such as this may keep them out of further legislative mischief.

Truther madness hits Germany

Truther madness has invaded Germany at the highest levels: one of the government-run TV stations ran an “investigative” show that examined whether it was OBL or the US government that took down the Twin Towers and tried to destroy the Pentagon and other buildings in D.C.:

Have you heard this one before?

Jupp says to his friend Willy: “Hey, how’s your wife in bed?” Willy says to Jupp: “Some say she’s good, some say she’s not.”

Everything, as it happens, is relative. Three hairs in a bowl of soup are three hairs too many, while three hairs on someone’s head are relatively few. Even the oldest jokes about this theory of relativity, the ones that wouldn’t even get a laugh out of drunken fools, suddenly become precious pearls of humor to those who saw Tuesday’s ZDF documentary titled “Sept. 11, 2001 — What Really Happened.”

Some might say the documentary was relatively harmless compared with the wildest conspiracy theories that have been circulating since the attacks, such as the one claiming that 4,000 Jewish New Yorkers who worked at the World Trade Center didn’t show up for work on Sept. 11. But if we hold a documentary up to a different standard, the ZDF broadcast was relatively malicious, misleading and, most of all, deceptive from beginning to end. On its Web site, the network claimed: “ZDF research bears out accusations against authorities.” The facts behind the documentary were supposedly provided by “well-known skeptics, experts and eyewitnesses to the attacks.” ZDF also claimed that it would contain “never before published documents and footage.”

The network trumpeted the documentary at full volume. But in reality, the “never before seen footage” consisted of a few close-ups from the engineering rooms of the Twin Towers, which could have just as easily been shot in ZDF’s furnace room. The “well-known skeptics” were the usual suspects who have long been performing their acrobatics in the 9/11 circus. One was a former chairman of a local chapter of the German Social Democratic Party. He served as Minister of Research and Technology under former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and has spent the last 25 years publicizing his revelations about the practices of intelligence agencies. Another one of ZDF’s competent experts was a 23-year-old American who produced a “documentary” on his laptop that became a hit on the Internet and will soon be released as a film.

In the interest of balance, several eyewitnesses to the Sept. 11 attacks were also interviewed. But almost everything they said was attacked and qualified by the skeptics and experts.

Read here the rest of Henryk M. Broder’s expose of Germany’s ugly anti-American side.

Rehabilitation versus punishment

Debate will always rage about the purpose of imprisonment and the reasonable length for prison sentences. Some people think prison exists solely to punish people, while others believe that we need to use prisons to rehabilitate people, and stop being so gosh darn punitive. I tend to fall in a mushy middle that is tied to the nature of the crime. I think small time criminals should be given chances to improve themselves in prison, through works, education and good behavior, and that those factors should lead to their getting out of prison earlier. If some uneducated yahoo who is caught with too much pot or cocaine spends his time in prison getting his G.E.D., staying out of trouble, and doing community volunteer work (San Quentin, for example, has a dog training program for rescue dogs), it’s a waste of taxpayer money to keep him in prison for the long haul.

I feel quite differently about murder — not manslaughter or some other gradation of killing (such as varying degrees of self-defense), but cold-blooded murder. The taking of a life, an act we all know to be heinous regardless of our economic situation or upbringing, is not only morally wrong, it rocks the core stability of our society if cold-blooded murder is given any type of a pass. I’m willing to admit that someone who killed at 20 and is now 50, having spent the bulk of his life in prison, might have been sufficiently punished — although it does depend on the motive, intent, purpose and manner of the crime. Again, human discretion matters in considering these things.

The one thing I know is that a woman who for political reasons cold-bloodedly killed two young American soldiers, and is almost certainly responsible for the deaths of many others, is getting a free pass as she is released after eight years because she is “rehabilitated”:

Eva Haule spent her last hours as a free woman in the ice cream café “Dolomiti” in Rüsselsheim — a town near Frankfurt. She was meeting with two supporters of the Red Army Faktion, the home-grown terror group to which she belonged. The trio attracted the attention of a person seated at a nearby table, who recognized them in police posters. Every time the waitress came to the table, the three would hurriedly gather together their papers.

The man called the police. Moments later, when two officers approached Haule’s table with guns drawn, she chose not to pull her own pistol. On August 2, 1986 Eva Haule disappeared behind bars and was sentenced to life in prison eight years later.

Now, a Frankfurt court has announced that the ex-terrorist — convicted of killing two Americans in a 1985 air base bombing — will be released on parole. The court ruled that the former RAF member no longer presented a threat to society. With her release, only two former members of the RAF — which disbanded in 1998 — will remain behind bars: Haule’s former comrade-in-arms Birgit Hogefeld and Christian Klar, arrested in 1982.

Haule’s biography makes clear that she was a merciless, dedicated killer. There’s no excuse here about poverty or ignorance. She was college educated with, of all things, a focus on social work. Here’s the kind of stuff Haule and her buddies did, and for which Haule was convicted:

Exactly one week after the Paris attack [shooting a director in the French Defense Ministry], a woman rang Ernst Zimmerman’s doorbell in Gauting, near Munich. She claimed to be the mail carrier and that she needed a signature. When Zimmerman — a manager at a company which built turbines for fighter planes and engines for tanks — opened the door, he was confronted by a man wielding an automatic weapon. The duo tied up Zimmerman and his wife before taking him into the bedroom. Once there, he was executed with a shot through his head. The murder has gone unsolved.

The third generation of the RAF had found its modus operendi — a style of killing it stayed true to until the 1991 murder of Detlev Karsten Rohwedder, responsible for selling off former East German state property following 1990 reunification. It was also clear to the investigators that the new RAF was extremely professional. Although Zimmerman’s murderer wore no gloves, there were no fingerprints left behind.

It was then that the RAF carried out an attack that cut the already slender ties to Germany’s leftist-radical scene once and for all. A woman in the Wiesbaden club “Western Saloon” began flirting with 20-year-old US soldier Edward Pimental. The GI left the disco with her — and was found dead the next morning in a nearby forest.

Just why Pimental had to die quickly became apparent. On Aug. 8, 1985, a car bomb ripped through a parking lot at the Rhein-Main Air Base, killing Airman First Class Frank Scarton and Becky Bristol, a civilian employee. Another 23 people were injured in the blast. The perpetrators had used Pimental’s ID to get on the base.

Numerous leftists, including jailed RAF members, publicly criticized the murder of the young US soldier and the air base attack. In response, the RAF said: “We are not misty-eyed social workers.”

By the way, on the subject of rehabilitation, one might ask, what does that mean? Is Haule contrite? Does she express true remorse and regret for what she’s done? Is she planning on devoting her life to true social service? Well, no:

Since she has been in prison, Haule has — like Brigitte Mohnhaupt, who was released from jail in March — opted to show no remorse for her actions as an RAF member. She cut off relations with Birgit Hogefeld, an RAF member who distanced herself from the group’s activities. Like her friend Helmut Pohl, she never gave interviews about the RAF. Instead, she has become involved in helping political prisoners.

In other words, she’s without remorse, and is continuing her political activism. Sounds rehabilitated to me. Or, at least, she sounds rehabilitated if she’s a member of the European community that considers Americans second-class beings, and may not be all that troubled at a moral level by their death. (On that point, please read, no matter how depressing it is, Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within.)