Wednesday, October 29, 2008
There may be no better place in the world to witness the shift in sentiment toward the United States than Berlin.
It was hard to imagine a more pro-American city when I first moved here in 1993, yet the wind has changed and the love affair is over.
America was at its peak in Europe in 1993. The Wall had fallen, but nobody was sure that communism and the USSR were completely dead yet. Yeah, I can imagine it was hard to find a more pro-American place at that point. We'd already saved it, but the lingering threat still hovered, and Europe was not yet ascendant. Europe, specifically Germany, and more specifically West Berlin, still felt vulnerable.
The infatuation with all things American has all but disappeared.
It was bound to disappear. For the entirety of the Cold War, Western Europe was essentially a ward of the United States. They were independent, yet they were entirely dependent upon the United State's military guarantee of their sovereignty. As Europe rose as an international competitor of the United States, it was natural that any infatuation that might have been would fade away. It is ignorant to think otherwise.
Perhaps it will change after the November 4 U.S. presidential election -- even though things will never be the same no matter who wins.
As in other countries, America's image has suffered. A June PEW survey found 31 percent of Germans had a favorable view of the United States, down from 78 percent in 2000.
Europe had yet to really feel its oats in 2000. I don't care who was President of the United States the last 8 years, that number was destined to plunge as the Euro, and as a result, the European Union, strengthened. And don't think that the Obamessiah is going to change that significantly unless Russian tanks begin to roll across the European plains.
Being an American in Berlin was once special. Not any more.
A city saved and protected by the Americans during the Cold War, Berlin was an island of overwhelming admiration for America, its presidents and above all the American way of life -- at least its altruistic, kind-hearted, justice-seeking side.
America was once special in Berlin because Berlin's very freedom was entirely dependent on the United States. It isn't all that uncommon for the dependent to chafe against those they are dependent upon as they become more able to fend for themselves. See teenagers.
Avenues were named after U.S. generals, schools after U.S. leaders and squares named after U.S. cities. American disc jockeys speaking mangled German were radio stars.
The U.S. ambassador's Fourth of July gathering was once the most coveted ticket on the garden party calendar. Not any more.
"Ways" and "Passes" were once named after triumphant Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin. But as time moved on, so did the public.
Berlin mayors spoke American-accented English and everyone from children to the elderly had a twinkle in their eye when recalling the 1940s Berlin airlift, Checkpoint Charlie tank standoffs or John F. Kennedy's 1963 speech in the city proclaiming "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner").
It isn't hard to be a big fan of the people that are currently pulling your fat out of the fire. That fandom is not destined to last when your own team has it's own strength, tough.
Probably the most moving assignment of my 18 years as a correspondent abroad was in 1994, when a district that hosted 6,000 U.S. soldiers who protected them from 90,000 Soviet forces stationed outside the Berlin Wall held a parade for the departing GIs.
Steglitz is a low-rise district with a small-town feel, and I had expected perhaps a few thousand to interrupt their Saturday shopping for a quick wave goodbye -- or good riddance.Instead, more than 250,000 packed the streets on that sunny summer morning. As the soldiers marched, the Berliners cheered, and cheered, and cheered. They threw tons of confetti from windows and gave their departing heroes a thunderous send-off.
The reporter in question should not confuse a "thank you" with a "we love you so much that we want you to be here forever." Sometimes thank yous are synonymous with "good bye."
I was born 11 years after the airlift ended in 1949, was toddler in 1963 when Kennedy came, never served in the army and, frankly, never learned in school about the U.S. role in Berlin.
Even in a big city with its stressed and grumpy residents, Berliners always seemed eager to help when I opened my mouth and American-accented German came out.
While I have no doubt that Mr. Kirschbaum is thoroughly Deutsch-ified, I don't think, after all this time, he understands the long love-loathe relationship that Germans have for the United States.
At first, I wondered why I kept running into so many retired GIs in Berlin who stayed. There are thousands of teachers, mechanics, cooks, DJs, bakers, and many in other professions.
It did not take long to figure out why. And I stayed too, one of almost 13,000 Americans who live permanently in the city.
When I first arrived in 1982 as a student, I had the naive goal of losing my American accent. I feared a "foreign accent" would bring disadvantages -- as it might in the United States.
Fortunately, my language abilities are limited and the bad accent actually opened many doors. Years after I married a Berliner, my wife admitted the only thing she remembered about our first meeting was my accent.
I'm not really seeing the point of these paragraphs. Any time you bring new people into a new area, a certain number of them will fall in love with their new home. I did with an area that I still think is inferior to my hometown. Some people even fall in love with Detroit. The fact that a number of Americans fell in love with Berlin (and Berliners) means nothing.
The author mistakes the transition from dependent to competitor for some nefarious shift of opinion from pro-'good America' to con-'competitor America'.
I used to hitch-hike across Germany when I was a student and often felt a surprising warmth toward the United States. Strangers wanted to buy me lunch; for many it was a personal recompense for a piece of chocolate a GI had given them decades earlier.
During the 1990s pro-American sentiment was still high.
They appreciated George Bush's support for reunification in 1990 that overcame British and French reticence. And Bill Clinton got rock star treatment every time he came here.
Even in the wake of September 11 attacks, Berlin's support for the United States was special. More than 200,000 attended a pro-America rally in Berlin on September 14, 2001 to hear German President Johannes Rau say:"No one knows better than the people here in Berlin what America has done for freedom and democracy in Germany. So, we say to all Americans from Berlin: America does not stand alone."
While Iraq played a role, Europe, Germany included, began a reflexive resistance against the U.S. this decade because it was no longer fully reliant upon the United States for its security because there really wasn't much in the way of threats. Instead of defender-defended, the relationship became that of more adversarial competitors.
It was, of course, the dispute over the invasion of Iraq.
Before that, U.S. presidents had always been welcomed in Berlin. However, in May 2002 George W. Bush needed 10,000 German police to shield him from 10,000 anti-war protesters.
It was difficult to believe that a U.S. president seemed to be avoiding the city that owed its very survival to America. There was a brief ray of hope a month later when Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech in Berlin -- and 200,000 people showed up.
The response to Obama was not to Barack Obama. It was Europe's response against America. While I hold no doubt that Obama's yellow bellied ways will appeal to Europeans, he'll never be Jack Kennedy. And because of that, any hope that the author has of Obama reinvigorating the Cold War era relationship is grossly misplaced.
In case things don't change after November 4, perhaps it's time to try finally to get rid of the American accent.Better get working on that, bud, because the days of the U.S. acting as benevolent host while Europe acted as the symbiotic parasite are long gone.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
"There's a lot of change going on outside of the court. The judges have to essentially take judicial notice up, I mean you've got WW II, the doctrines of Nazism that we are fighting against that started looking uncomfortably similar to what's going on back here at home."
Details, Senator. Quickly, please.
However, Edwards’ critique of Obama’s plan doesn’t mean that she’s saving any love for McCain’s health care proposals. Edwards – who has battled breast cancer since 2004 – said McCain’s plan fails in all important areas by leaving the decision-making process up to individuals, who can frequently “make stupid economics decisions.”
She isn't the only one. It is a hallmark of the left to think that the government makes smarter choices than you do. And by giving Democrats a historic victory with your vote next week, you'll be agreeing with them that you are too dumb to make choices for your own life (but somehow not too dumb to make a critical choice for the impending life of others).
Bud needs to start standing up to the sports media. Cut off access to idiots. Throw his weight around the way NFL and NBA commissioners do. Selig has helped enable this caustic sports media, and they know that there are no repercussions for continually lambasting baseball. While I think Bud Selig has been an excellent commissioner, he is notoriously poor at managing the press. While playing hard ball with them now will not help his cause, it will make the next commissioner and baseball in general stronger.
And just as a side note, suspended, tied games are not without precedent in baseball history. In fact, in 1984 during the regular season, a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago White Sox was suspended in the 17th inning because of a curfew. The game was picked up the next day, with the White Sox winning in the 25th.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
1. There is a Dewey Defeats Truman moment. In other words, my few colleagues who target their fire at the polls are right, and McCain pulls out a most unlikely victory. And I am humbled as a commentator.
2. Obama wins with some varying but convincing margin.
I am of the opinion that #2 is most likely at this point. And if that does occur, we are at a 1964 moment. If we are lucky, this bottoming out will trampoline the right to new heights. Unfortunately, I fear that we are not in a 1964 moment when it comes to ideas. The right is not transcendent right now. Our ideas are in disarray, not at the verge of ascendancy. There are few natural leaders of any movement. There is nothing cementing the conservative-libertarian-evangelical alliance. The right is facing a reckoning. It is up to leaders at all levels to make sure that conservative/libertarian values come out the other side of this strong.
Face it, as good as it is to go green by buying a hybrid or gas-saving small car, there are just some things those cars can't do. Plus, because of their popularity, small car and hybrid buyers are now paying an extra premium for the honor of driving a little econobox that may not suit their needs. Before you fork over a lot of green to go green, check out five reasons why buying a large truck or SUV may still make sense.
All five are great reasons-and politically incorrect one month ago. If the economy continues to tank and oil prices follow, I project articles singing the praises of 1970's muscle cars by January.
1. I had many kids tell me the pieces of candy they wanted from my bowl. Parents, that's rude of your kids, and I'm likely to deny their request and give them the crappiest pieces I have. If they ask with a 'please', I may be of a different mind.
2. I have a rule. If you are old enough to dress slutty, you are too old to trick or treat. If you are young enough to trick or treat, you are too young to dress slutty. In previous years, the offenders were older girls who were well past their trick or treating years. This year, it was the reverse. Don't let your little girls dress like that, moms and dads. There are a lot of sick SOBs out there, and while you may be allowing your little one their wants, you aren't protecting them at all.
3. Don't send your 4 year old to my door with two bags because you have a six month old in the stroller. I know that six month old won't be eating candy.
4. If your child has a cumbersome mask or is still working on his or her fine motor skills, don't send them up the stairs to my porch without any help. If they fall, I'll feel bad, but I'll fight your lawsuit with much ferocity because you were too stupid to know your kid needed help.
5. Don't walk the kids down the street with a beer in your hand. I have enough respect for your kids not to drink on a football Sunday, so you need to have enough respect for them not to get a snootful while taking them out. (Exception: Houses that offer parents a quick drink. Everything in moderation).
6. Do not drive your kids house to house in a dense residential area. They can make the walk just fine, and given the volume of candy that will be given them, they probably should. And yes, your little prince or princess can handle wind and cold. The only exception to this rule that I can think of came in the very first year I handled the candy doling duties. That year, we got over 20 inches of snow between October 31 and November 1.
7. If you are two houses down and I shut off my light, you have my apologies, but I've run out of candy. Don't send your kids up to the door, please.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Butler also said there are “other stories that are going to come out” about Favre.If there is a cascade of Brett Favre scandals, Wisconsinites may end up just as jaded as New Yorkers.
“This is just the beginning,” (LeRoy) Butler said. “This is only the smallest one.”
Butler did not elaborate.
Monday, October 20, 2008
1. What Brett did was not against NFL rules. That does not clear him, though. Many of us out here in fan land have jobs that are subject to confidentiality agreements and non-competes. If I were to do something analogous to what Brett did (and I have no doubt he did it), it would cost me in damages and legal fees. Brett should be grateful he doesn't work here in the real world, because that sort of activity is not taken as lightly as it is in the NFL.
2. Note to current GMs and future GMs: Never hire Brett as a coach. If that's the best he could do scouting his own old offense for the Lions, then he'd be a disaster as an actual coach.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
kf hears from a trustworthy non-Republican source (with access to actual insider information) that the Dems are getting set to pass "card check" legislation fast next year, right out of the box, assuming Obama wins and the Democrats get their expected big Senate majority. The legislation--which would eliminate the secret ballot in union organizing elections, allowing union organizers to gather signed cards person-to-person--is cheap, in budgetary terms. And it's very, very important to organized labor.
Nice to see the unions are using their members' money to buy a piece of the Presidency.
On the one hand, I want to be part of the optimistic McCain camp. Every vote he gets will be important, even if he loses. On the other hand, I'm becoming more and more sure that he's toast. In my everyday life, I see no evidence that McCain isn't trailing Obama by a significant amount here in Wisconsin, and I suspect that this is playing out to differing degrees in states across the country.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
David Letterman and Sen. John McCain will get a chance to make up.
The Republican presidential candidate is scheduled to appear on Letterman's Late Show on Thursday.
It will be McCain's 13th visit to the CBS program but his first since he angered Letterman by canceling last month.
Letterman was unhappy when McCain sat for an interview with Katie Couric instead of him on Sept. 24.
Letterman may very well let bygones be bygones. Unfortunately for the McCain camp, angry comedians are more cunning and vicious than a cornered, wounded animal. Letterman could very well make John McCain look like an ass and a fool with just weeks to go until the election. Frankly, I can't believe they are willing to take that risk.
Monday, October 13, 2008
I can see why an eco-unrealist could get excited, but let's be realistic here. Even if wind energy takes off, it will be no match for higher ticket, mass market products like cars. Secondly, wind energy is second only to nuclear energy when it comes to NIMBY-ism. The cap on this is going to be much lower than some people wish.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
How long until 2012?
Sunday, October 05, 2008
This is turning into an ugly season, and it has nothing to do with Brett Favre not being in town anymore. A big part of the Packers' success last season was the defense. The play of the corners and Cullen Jenkins in the interior made the entire defense a better unit. We saw glimpses of how big a part of this team Jenkins in particular was. When he went down last season, the entire defense began a slide. The injuries on the defensive side of the ball this year have deteriorated the quality of that unit. They aren't terrible, but they aren't good enough.
As for the offense, we are seeing an undisciplined offensive line. They are not executing well, and they are committing a lot of foolish penalties. Their performance is a big part of the reason this running game is not getting on track, and that's holding back the entire offense. As for the receivers, they are still a formidable group that fights for the catch better than any group in the league. Their dropped passes is a concern, but not a major concern. It all comes back to the line play.
It was a hell of a year with a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Their flaws were exposed in September and October, though. This is a team with poor plate discipline. And it isn't just about being more picky at the plate. If you watched enough games, you could see what the book was on some of these hitters. With Prince Fielder, the book was to get him to chase up and out of the strike zone. With Corey Hart, it was to get him to flail at low, outside breaking stuff. The point is, the Brewer hitters were well scouted and they did not make adjustments to what pitchers were doing. They just kept flailing. They gave defenses a lot of free outs over the last month.
Dale Sveum did a good job of managing the bullpen, but it is really impossible to say whether that would carry forward into next year. He had the luxury of a bullpen enlarged with September call ups and a post season pen augmented by starters. Still, the pen that Yost had for most of the year just wasn't good enough. This will never be a team that can afford to stack the pen with talent, but Melvin is going to have to find a way to reconstitute it for next year. The team is facing other holes, but that's another post for another day.
What's there to say? This team just isn't as talented as we thought. Clay stands to be a star in the future, and that future may get kick started yet this season.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
In Obama's case, the media does not seem to be digging all that hard. Most of the Obama scandals have been forced on the media, frankly. Don't be surprised if, in an Obama presidency, you hear casual voters saying, "why didn't I hear about that during the election?"
Thirteen years to the day after being acquitted of killing his wife and her friend in Los Angeles, O.J. Simpson was found guilty of robbing two sports-memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room.
The 61-year-old former football star was convicted of all 12 counts late Friday after jurors deliberated for more than 13 hours. He released a heavy sigh as the charges were read and was immediately taken into custody.
Simpson, who went from American sports idol to celebrity-in-exile after his murder acquittal, could spend the rest of his life in prison.
There will be no tears shed here.
And just for the record, Ms. Theimer, I consider myself and a lot of my friends to be Joe Six-Packs, whatever the color of our collars or persuasion of our politics. I will give you this-Joe SP's are in no way a cohesive voting block. But that doesn't mean they don't exist.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
*I am soooo sick of both Presidential candidates. I don't think either of them are the best candidates for the job they face right now. Are they the right people for the job as it appeared to be 6 months ago? Probably. That world is no longer, though.
*Face it, the House has acted exactly as it was designed to act. The two year terms were designed to make the House more receptive to popular opinion. Unfortunately for our current mess, I don't think popular opinion understands how significant this problem is to Joe Sixpack, and it won't until somebody misses a paycheck.
*If somebody misses a paycheck, I'm sure the blame will be shifted from those greedy bastards on Wall Street to those worthless bums in Washington. Some fingers will need to be pointed inward, too, though.
*I am terribly excited about playoff baseball in Milwaukee, but I also approach it with trepidation. The Brewers are in a weak state, although some components seemed to be reviving near the very end of the season. I am playing all of my superstitions for an NLDS victory.
*I've seen and heard a lot of people marvel over Brett Favre's 6 TD's on Sunday, and with that some finger pointing at Ted Thompson. Sorry, folks, but you might have been able to throw 6 TD's against that Cardinal team on Sunday. And you're no Brett Favre.
*Can you believe those ugly assed wild card hats the Brewers wore on the field Sunday sold out so quickly? I guess I'm not the only one who saw some beauty amongst all that ugly.
*I stayed at a resort on Monday night, and I was more than a little stunned that there was no wi-fi (or even hard wired) internet access in the room.