Germany Goes Mao on Free Speech: Investors Blanche

January 19, 2018

When asked how he went bankrupt, the venerable  American author of “Huckleberry Finn” Mark Twain said „Slowly at first, then all at once.“ It looks like that quintessential Western freedom to speak and write freely (within the already narrow parameters of incitement, libel and genocide denial laws) is heading down the very same path in Germany. Freedom of speech, that core practice that distinguishes the West from its competitors and adversaries, is curling up its toes between the Oder and the Rhine.

On New Year’s Day 2018, veiled government censorship detonated in the Teutonic Twittersphere as a new and eerily named hate speech law took effect – the Netzdurchsuchungsgesetz. I’ve covered the NetzDG ‘s slow dark creep and how it’s the antithesis of all that characterizes the West – arbitrary, without redress, full Mao.

As it seeks to make a thousand flowers bloom, the law also has the potential of spooking investors and even of damaging investor sentiment in Germany. That’s especially true for smaller urban tech start-ups and for downtown real estate, as I discovered at the latest Tech Summit in Lisbon. More on that later. First, here’s a bit of polit-drama to spice up a baleful tale.

Not Tried, But Immediately Tested

After the NetzDG went into effect on the first day of 2018, it was immediately tested by an arch-adversary of the sitting government. AFD MP Beatrix von Storch fired off a Tweet that entered the Shadowland of What is Acceptable. In emotive language, she lashed out at “barbaric, gang-raping Muslim hordes”. The tweet was quickly scrubbed by Twitter. (In a prima facie example of how misguided the law is, a satire of her tweetwas erased as well.) Von Storch then used the censorship as a case in point – that the NetzDG was not about fighting hate, but was instead a cynical bid to ring-fence debate on the CDU/SPD’s Open Borders policy and its consequences. That policy is now facing mounting public rejection and is weighing heavily on tough exploratory talks for a coalition government.

Hate Speech Charges: Used to Smokescreen Policy Failures?

You can argue whether or not the AFD Co-Chair’s Beatrix von Storch’s Tweet was in good taste. But that’s not at issue. What is, is her fundamental right to express her own thoughts and sentiments where, how and when she pleases. Especially when it comes to public policy and police failures to protect the public. Taking it one step further, the very police department her Tweet criticized (Cologne’s) then put her under investigation for incitement for underscoring unpleasant facts that put them in a bad light!  Again, the question here is not whether von Storch stereo-typed a group, hurt feelings or even engaged in incitement. The question is about censoring political speech at the exact moment migration becomes the nation’s most emotional and divisive issue. The Twitter erasure and felony charges arise just as new crime stats point to a direct link between increased unvetted migration and soaring violence and crime in Germany and Europe.

Setting the Cologne police case aside, a public courtroom, not a corporate office for private media police , is the proper venue to judge if Von Storch broke the law. That’s been the democratic norm in the US since 1789 and the Federal Republic since 1949. The CDU/SPD Grand Coaltion has clearly dropped the torch.

A Law Unto Itself 

The NetzDG has been ripped apart by a cross-section of civil society. Even the UN, assorted NGO’s and the EU have expressed concern. And since the NetzDG has the whiff of political sulfur, it’s hardly surprising the AFD, seeing an opportunity, has gone in for the kill. The FDP and the Greens as well have made undoing the law part of their agenda. (The Greens, though, want more, not less, government intervention. According to the DTS News Service, leading Green Renate Kunast wants a national network of courts to convict offenders.) All of this has stoked the debate that Germany is sleepwalking backward into the bad old days of the Stasi in the Communist East. As a young journalist, I spent a number of tours in the grayscapes of the DDR. I never saw a thousand blossoms. But I did meet some of the earnest “Heroes of the Revolution” who were busy monitoring, censoring and arresting fellow citizens for aberrant thoughts and utterances, like the gentleman below.

The NetzDG is not Investor-Friendly 

The NetzDG is tarnishing Germany’ reputation as a progressive society. What it reveals is a jittery nanny state micromanaging Tweets with a legion of amateurs unsuited for their role, whose task is administering directives and whose judgment is final. That might work if your business partner is a sweatshop providing the only jobs in a malarial swampland. It does not work if you’re looking for the best and the brightest. What makes Silicon Valley shine for tech investors is the atmosphere of inventiveness deeply rooted in free thinking. Arabesques of creativity were not exactly the order of the day in the DDR. They will become less likely in a Germany where social media is tightly monitored for missteps.

And it sets Germany on a slippery slope. How long is the descent from censored tweets to China’s social media ratings that determine your employment or housing possibilities? Far-fetched? Some in the German elite are openly lobbying for pivoting to China as Berlin’s preferred partner rather than Trumps’ America. It’s not only perceptions of what Germany’s is becoming that’s worrying investors. At the Tech Summit in Lisbon, young founders also grilled me on security in business hubs like Frankfurt and Berlin in light of the arrival of thousands of unvetted migrants.

They’re Only Numbers 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t provide them with concrete numbers, and could only point to the anecdotal record. That, as mentioned, has changed as I write this, and the latest numbers confirm aggregated police blotter reports showing a connection and a causality between a spike in migrant numbers and a spike in certain types of crime. This topic has been largely ignored by Germany’s mainstream news networks. (Some of the questions raised at the Tech Summit were based on personal accounts of recent travelers to Germany.) I left Lisbon with the impression there are growing reservations among digital nomads about German cities, especially about my home, Berlin. For Generation Z, I discovered, it no longer enjoys a reputation as a  laid-back locale for hipsters looking to start up the next Spotify or Netflix. Now it’s Lisbon that’s topping the charts for groove and the buzz.   Not just because of its young tech scene, its modest prices and its stunning natural beauty and nostalgic architechtural beauty. It’s also one of Europe’s safest cities – especially for young women. (But watch out for the pickpockets on scenic Tram 28!)

            Taking a break at TechSummit17 with the Tall Ships

Can Germany Get Its Freedom Mojo Back?

Step One to a new German Mojo is dumping NetzDG on the scrap heap of history. Germany’s leading publications are already leaning that way. Editors are recalling Europe’s rich heritage: what has distinguished us, beginning with the Greek city-state until this very day, is the freedom to speak our minds publically and in assemblies, the Agora, without fear. The NetzDG imbues the Digital Agora with an atmosphere of denunciation and suspicion. The choice for Germans is clear: they can choose freedom, with all its nuances and responsibilities, or they can choose fear, the great paralyzer and destroyer. Let’s hope 2018 will see Germans reconnecting with the Freedom Mojo that was their glory in 1848 and in 1989. The world would be a better place for it.

Copyright 2018 by Brian Thomas All rights reserved. All photos thanks to Wiki Commons.

Feel free to use or quote any of this editorial. If you do so, please provide the appropriate attribution for your readers. Thanks!

Unstable Germany? Not if President Steinmeier Acts Fast

November 20, 2017

With the collapse of coalition talks, German has entered unchartered territory and many fear weeks if not months of political uncertainty set to cost jobs, give investors cold feet and undermine faith in Europe’s leading economy and in Berlin’s ability to shape the post-Brexit European Union. People are worried and they should be.

A fraying Europe – with Brexit, Catalaxit, challenges to the rule of law in Poland, corporate censorship in the form of hate speech laws for social media, a disingenuous Russia and a migration crisis that will be with us for decades – has just received another loud rip in its fabric.
There is a way, though, to save Germany and Europe from further damage

The wise authors of the nation’s 1949 Constitution, having lived through the associated horrors of weak institutions during the Weimar Republic anticipated exactly this moment. They’ve provided us with the excellent remedies within the guidelines of Article 63.

Sicherheitskonferenz - Munich Security Conference

 

How Article 63 Works

With the collapse of talks, following Article 63 means the Federal President, Frank-Walter  Steinmeier steps in. The political initiative and the power to decide who is chancellor passes to the Federal President. Frank Walter Steinmeier.  He’s already indicated he understands what is at stake.

Step One: The Bundestag Vote for Absolute Majority

„The Chancellor is elected by the Bundestag in accordance with Article 63. The Federal President is allowed to propose a candidate only in the first round of voting. Here the authors of the Basic Law learned a clear lesson from the Weimar Republic where the President was able to appoint and dismiss the Chancellor at will. If there is no absolute majority in the first round of voting the Bundestag has fourteen days time in which it can elect a Chancellor in as many rounds of voting as desired. Here again, an absolute majority is needed to win (Article 63, 3, Basic Law). „

Step Two: The Bundestag Vote for a Simple Majority

„If this second phase fails to produce the desired result the parliament must vote without delay in a third phase. If the candidate for Chancellor receives only a relative majority the President is required to step in. He must either appoint the candidate for Chancellor who received the largest number of votes or he must dissolve the Bundestag (Article 63, 4, Basic Law).In the 18 times a Chancellor has been elected since 1949 all the heads of government have received the required a majority in the first round of voting. However the candidate elected is not officially Chancellor until he has received a certificate of appointment from the Federal President (Article 63, 2, Basic Law)

Step Three: The Constructive Vote of No-confidence

A Chancellor’s term in office normally ends when the newly elected Bundestag convenes for its first meeting (Article 69, Basic Law). However, the parliament can express a lack of confidence in the head of government by electing a successor with an absolute majority (Article 67, Basic Law). Helmut Kohl is the only Chancellor in the history of the Federal Republic to have been elected in this way. He succeeded Helmut Schmidt as a result of a constructive vote of no confidence in 1982. At the request of the Federal President, a deposed Chancellor is required to continue to conduct the affairs of office until the appointment of his successor (Article 69, Basic Law).

The German President Should Act Swiftly, Today Would be Good

German President Frank Walter Steinmeier should act swiftly and begin the parliamentary process.

Now that the FDP is out, we can be spared the spectacle of similarly doomed negotiations. The FDP, Greens and the conservative CDU/CSU have demonstrated they can’t reach even the show of a workable compromise in the following areas:

1.) Migration and the prospect of bringing over hundreds of thousands of family dependents to join the hundreds of thousands of refugee already here. Non-starter.

2.) Fossil Fuels. Ending coal mining and coal-fired power plants is a no-go zone that was barely touched on.

3.) Tax Reform Never easy even when partners are ideologically close let alone at dagger’s edge.

AfD Bundesparteitag 23. April 2017 in Köln

 

If all else fails : New Elections 

With this in mind, and should the Bundestag vote fail, the Federal President then calls new elections. That’s not the end of the world. It will most likely, however, be the political end of the Angela Merkel. Under her leadership, her Christian Democrats have lost most of their conservative contours, especially regarding migration, open borders and a cap on asylum seekers and migrants. These issues, and whether refugees already in the country will be allowed to bring over their families from places like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, will be at the heart of the next election campaign. The party most likely to benefit from the new uncertainty and new elections will be the Alternative for Germany which has made an anti-migrant stand the central plank in its platform.

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John F. Kennedy Calling with a Free Speech Message this Saint Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2017

This Saint Patrick Day I’m thinking about one of my favorite Irish heroes, the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy – a man of clarity, purpose, and courage. His speeches, written by himself, remain part of classic rhetorical training, as they were when I was learning to cut the cliches and mixed metaphors.

To celebrate Paddy driving out of the snakes, here’s the audio and text version of his oft-cited address to the American Newspapers Publishers Association on April 27, 1961. It represents the gold standard when it comes to style. But it’s often overlooked when it comes to its substance – namely that a vigorous and free press it essential to a lively democracy. Without it, debate and discussion withers to what is allowed and approved by the powerful and wealthy, not what is essential to a free and independent people. And the shield and sword that protects the press is the First Amendment.

Here in Germany, a bill is being crafted that would undermine free speech in this country. It’s the Hate Speech bill by Justice Minister Heiko Maas that I have warned about in other commentaries and will continue to report on. The German journalist Marcus Reuter has done some especially good reporting on the type of creeping government censorship it imposes, masked in good intentions. It takes aim at communications on social media, but can easily be applied to Bragh! services as well. The list of forbidden content includes the usual “hate speech” and “incitement” clauses which are famously elastic, as well legal sanctions for failing to delete illegal material like copyrighted images or text. At the same time, it contains no sanctions for failing to delete pornographic material that may be accessible by a minor.

But let’s put all this aside for today – it is, after all, Saint Patrick’s and that means, since everyone is Irish today, it’s time for a beer, and some corned beef and cabbage out of solidarity with the Emerald Isle. One last thought – just like Saint Patrick is the protector of Ireland, JFK told journalists that they, and the First Amendment, were the protectors of America’s freedom:

“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution …”

Here’s to Saint Patrick and a snake free life: Erin Go Bragh !

Copyright by Brian Thomas 2016 . All rights reserved.

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Trump and Bild: Merkel’s Poisoned Chalice

January 16, 2017

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Trump Lays it Out for Germany’s Best Selling Tabloid

The news hit the stands (online) Monday night at 23:00 and has been burning it up on the air waves and the internet since then. Everyone has an opinion it seems on a German publication’s first interview with the president-elect. It was conducted by Bild Zeitung, Germany’s biggest tabloid, a brilliant pick to reach out to as many everyday Germans as possible. Editor-in-Chief Kai Diekmann did a solid job, asked the right questions and drew the right conclusions, among them:

1.) Trump is breaking all the rules,  diplomatic,political  and otherwise, and will continue to do so for as long as he governs.

2.) He’s rude, confrontational and annoyingly honest – which can actually be an asset in solving encrusted conflicts.

3.) Trump is the biggest political experiment since the end of the Cold War.

And then the kicker – Trump might just be the first president to change the office more than having the office change him.

It’s a good bet: after redefining campaigning, expect Trump to reshape the Oval Office.Think Twitter, cabinet picks he knew would disagree with him, and the call he repeated in his Bild interview with Diekmann to roll back NATO and his dire prediction for a demise of the EU.

German Politicos Bump Along in the Fog

I listened to a top CDU politician Norbert Röttgen on Deutschlandfunk giving his response to the Trump interview  after dropping the kids off at school. He’s very bright but continues to analyze Trump from a far too German perspective. He remains confused about Trump’s intentions, and consternated that  Trump thinks mainly of American jobs and America’s borders, deems NATO obsolete and thinks Merkel’s decision to allow in hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees “probably one of the worst if not the worst decision in the country’s history.”   He shouldn’t be.  Theses are positions, sometimes word for word,  Trump laid out countless times in his campaign speeches.

They also represent a deep continuum in American Isolationism.  And – like we’ve seen in the “Mother Country” Britain –  isolationist populism erupts when America’s working and middle classes feel endangered by changes that pose a threat to the nation’s character and customs. Terrorism, radical Islam and  mass migration top that list, although the rise of artificial intelligence and an economic system that mainly serves the hyper-rich as Oxfam just pointed out, are right up there.

Wait and See is the Worst Strategy with Trump

Other top politicians here have not been doing the character study of  Trump they should have. In response to his plan to slap steep 35 % tariffs on BMW, SPD Vice-Chancellor Sigmar  Gabriel says just wait and see what comes out of all this.

Foreign Minister frank Walter Steinmeier is taking a similar approach when it comes to Trump’s intentions of changing NATO. Both are banking on Trump running into opposition in Congress on getting protectionist and isolationist  legislation pushed through. In doing so they are not taking three key factors into consideration:

1.) Many of the voters who put Trump in office  are among the bottom 50 % of Americans who’ve seen no income growth  for 30 years while the top 1 % has seen a 300 % increase in wealth. They are ripe for protectionism, not more globalism. Congress will mirror that.

2.) Donald Trump is the Ultimate Deal Maker. He is also a driven individual who works tirelessly to achieve his goals. His ego will allow for nothing less than total success and victory.

3.)  European nations started closing borders as soon as the migrant crisis unfolded. It led to new  alliances  in the form of  a revitalized Visegrad Group.  The dynamic of crisis led  Russia to  decouple form the West and  seek an invigorated Shanghai Group.   America has seen that Europe’s East and Putin’s Russia are successful in achieving their goals via national and regional solutions as opposed to trans-national agreements and  is opting for the same path.

Instead of playing defense and  preparing to react to Trump initiatives, Germany and the EU needs to move forward with it’s own agenda on migration and jobs. If  Europe does not act with athletic confidence in key policy areas, the EU  will be steamrollered by a newly assertive America on everything from trade to migration to security.

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Expect Much More of the Same – Not Less

 “America First” has been the historic norm for America, not the  corporate globalism and interventionism of the last 70 years. That is what’s behind Trump’s own consternation about how Merkel responded to the migrant crisis that unfolded in Europe in 2015.  A similar migrant situation has been in the making  on America’s southern border .It was Trump’s promise to “build the wall”, along with bringing home jobs, that galvanized the conservative base and got out undecided and first-time voters.

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Photo :By P. Heinlein [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Safe Zones for Syria – Why Not for Somalia ? The Poisoned Chalice

Talking to Bild, Trump laid out a plan for “safe zones” in Syria funded by oil sheiks   to shelter refugees until they can return home.  He said that was what Germany should have done as as the crisis unfolded. But in 2015, Germany  did not have the  military and logistical capacity for such a mission.  It  still doesn’t.  Could German diplomacy though have  cobbled together an alliance to create safe zones in Syria?  And if militarily protected safe zones could have been an alternative for Syria in 2015, are they an option today?  Are  “safe zones”  perhaps the best solution for all involved in Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea as well?  Those countries are sending tens of  thousands of refugees to Europe monthly.  Tragically, all too many die making the risky voyage to Europe.

Those  questions are the poisoned chalice that Donald  Trump has extended to Angela Merkel, her coalition and the next government as well. Trump’s delivery of  his   critique of  Angela’s  Merkel’s claim there was  no other option at that time than to allow  the refugees in, via Bild as the election seasons here kicks off, shows just how much of a political operator he is.

No wonder Angela Merkel has chosen to play down the Bild interview. But will her political opponents inside  and outside of the coalition do the same for very long?   Just as the Bild interview was making the rounds, so too was the news that a veteran CDU grand dame had quit the party , condemning Merkel for  violating EU law  with her unilateral decision to suspend the Dublin accords,  a move that legalised the influx of refugees into Europe. The debate over migration and what transpired at Europe’s borders in 2015  is set to shape the 2017 German election.

Since Merkel has chosen to run for a fourth term as Chancellor, her decision not to engage Trump,  but to avoid him at every turn, and not  to rebut his criticism is a misstep. If she wants to win, she will need to explain to voters why her decision in 2015 was the right one and why her current migration policy is the best way forward.

As I have previously mentioned, instead of  playing “wait and see” or  taking Trump’s bait,  Merkel’s  adjutants should be down at Trump Tower glad-handing every palm they can press. Her success or failure at the polls could depend on her relations with Germany’s most important ally.

All Copyrights ©Brian Thomas 2017

Fair Use: Please feel free to share, quote or use in any way this article provided you give Brian Thomas credit as its author. Thanks! If you like what you’ve found here, check my Youtube Channel : http://bit.ly/2eolQZh

Five Things Angela Merkel Can Do Before Inauguration Day To Warm Ties With the New Washington

January 12, 2017

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Photo Credit: “DSC01763” © 2012 Maxence, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Germany and its political leaders may never learn to love Donald Trump. But they will have to learn to live with him, and to work with him over the next four, or even eight, years.

So why not get of to a good start?

Here’s five things Berlin can do today to get off on the right foot with the new administration.

Call the Point Man

Angela Merkel’s Press Spokesman Stefan Seibert can send a note of congratulations to Sean Spicer, Donald Trump’s new Press Secretary, his counterpart in the White House, for being named to the post.

If he already did so, why not send a nice follow-up and underscore all the things they have in common? They’re both Catholics, married with children, familiar with the corridors of power and share a knack for working with high power bosses with thick agendas.

Stefan should invite Sean to Berlin for a beer and get those back channels of communication lubricated with some good German hops. I’m leaving their twitter addresses here and here in case either of them stumble on this and take up the idea on a whim. You never know …

Jared Packs a Punch

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© 2006 Hamed Saber, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Merkel’s Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier should do a Skype hook up with Jared Kuschner. After investing so much time in getting the Iran nuclear done and dusted, the German Foreign Minister can get familiar with Trump’s son-in-law  and Special White House advisor. Kushner has known Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from childhood. (His father has cut the kind of deals in Israel his billionaire son has put together in New York.)

Maybe Jared can help  Steinmeier save the Iran Deal from the trash can? Trump has promised to tear it up and Kushner is set to be his “go-to-guy “for Israel.

Steinmeier will, of course, first have to convince Jared he didn’t mean it when he intervened in the US election (without hacking or fake news) and said the prospect of  a Trump presidency was frightening and likened then candidate now president-elect Trump  to a hate preacher.  Hans-Dieter Genscher is rolling in his grave.

As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has discovered – even knowing a friend of Jared can pay off. One such friend just told  Abbas Trump is serious about recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Jordanian government is calling Jerusalem a “Red Line”. I wonder how Saudi Arabia feels? Or Islamic State? Did I just repeat myself?

Crank up the Skype Steini and get going. There’s a lot to do before becoming German president. Are you training up a replacement? Remind him that foresight is is the hallmark of diplomatic greatness.

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Past Support means Future Gains

German intelligence services need the NSA to work effectively. That’s according to no-one less than the SPD’s Thomas Oppermann. The Social Democrat grandee was once very busy with the parliamentary committee that looked into the NSA spying scandals in 2015.

Mr.Oppermann might want to consider a quick flight to New York to check in with Dan Coates, the man earmarked by Trump to oversee America’s vast, mulit-agency intelligence network. Coates is a former U.S. ambassador to Germany and under Bush the Younger tried, but failed, to get the Schroeder-Fischer Duo to kit up German soldiers and join in the Fake News fueled War Against Iraq.

Oppermann might want to leave out that German intell got it right about Iraqi WMD’s in 2003. Instead he can focus on how Angela Merkel backed George W. Bush in the run up to the war. That fact can be a bridge builder with Coates, who I’m sure hasn’t forgotten Merkel’s support from the opposition benches when most Germans opposed the war.

Saying You’re Sorry In the National Interest

Angela Merkel has made pre-inauguration comments indicating Europe should get used to acting on the world stage without the U.S. The statement is a political earthquake that has yet to send shock waves. No post-war president has ever called the trans-Atlantic Partnership into question. What Europe is she talking about ? Britain is going, and France, Holland and Italy want either out or a looser EU after elections this year.  And Spain and Belgium are both still facing secessionists. There’s always Luxembourg. They have banks.

Instead of warning Trump on protectionism, she should be should somehow quickly make amends for her cool response to  Donald Trump’s shock victory.  The reintegrative shaming  she subjected him to will not work with Donald Trump. It’s a red bandana to a bull. Think Pamplona. A snappy apology would demonstrate strength of character,magnanimity and a desire to get down to work in the national interest. Trump has forgiven far worse slights and after all is a businessman. Simple flowers will do. No red roses.

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In Vino Veritas

Host an Open House (with open bar) for Europe’s Expat American Deplorables at the Chancellery. They were hard to find during the campaign season, but I have a feeling we’re going to learn that places like Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt are actually crawling with Trump Republicans.  Especially now that the MAGA forces are about to march into the White House in a few days.

If these recommendations for Berlin  start and end with alcohol, that’s because getting US-German relations back to where they were under Obama might just require a stiff drink.  Especially  with a new poll showing Germans more disenchanted than ever with the US after the Trump victory.

Thinking about it twice, maybe save the drink for afterwards. No use conmplicating an already difficult situation.

All copyrights Brian Thomas 2017

Fair Use: Please feel free  to share, quote or use in any way this article provided you give Brian Thomas credit as its author. Thanks!

Detect,Detain,Defund,Deport: Germany’s Mainstream Goes Populist

January 8, 2017

 

 

„Beware the fury of a patient man.“ The English playwright John Dryden could have been speaking about the ever forbearing German voter. How much they have carried!

Funding their spendthrift brethren from Ireland to Greece. Bolstering the Euro and the EU’s banks every time they get a case of the teeters.

Standing up for the opposition in Ukraine and Syria, even when they are not quite democratic.

Always there for Israel, settlements or not.

And then the 2015 tour de force – taking in over a million of the planet’s needy and fleeing, only to discover (surprise surprise) some among them harbor murder and mayhem in their hearts.

You’d think those German voters were made out of money and the patience of a mandarin sage!

Well they’re not. Not of either and not by a long shot.

And they’re letting the ruling class know it.

Their main concern after a Terror Christmas is security.

They’re tired of cynical bromides like „Terror? It’s the new normal.“ „We’ll have to get used to it.“ „There’s no 100% security.“

They’re not having it. And they’ll be voting for leaders who promise to rip out the terrorists in our midst, root, branch and limb,  and deliver on that vow.

Caving into terror and making excuses for failure are not a vote winner in the current climate.

The latest opinion surveys and the political reaction bears that out.

New polls show the AFD snapping at the heels of the governing coalition’s Social Democrats.  They stand at 15 % to the SPD’S 20 % and have gained more than any other party. And that even though the far right Alternative for  Germany  are extremely thin on experienced personnel, are hampered by relentless infighting, and have yet to convincingly cull their ranks of neo-Nazis. (And they’ve even signaled they’ want to spend 2017-2022 on the opposition benches.)

It appears those long forbearing voters are starting to lose their patience with mainstream politics.

And it looks like the politicians get it.  From the Left Party to the liberal Free Democrats, they’ve sensed the public mood and have spent the last few days falling over each other in their bid to convince the public they’re the sheriff with the quickest pistol.

Here’s a quick sampling of a few personal favorites:

Left Party leader Sarah Wagenknecht channels AFD leader Fraucke Petry and says Angela Merkel bears partial responsibility for the Berlin attacks.

The Free Democrats’ Christian Lindner wants Merkel’s „Wir schaffen das“ („We can manage it“ in reference to the Refugee Crisis) applied to the surveillance of potential Islamist terrorists.

Co-Chancellor and would-be full time Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel now wants radical Islamist mosques banned.

(Why aren’t they already?, one has to ask.)

Whoever said politics is boring didn’t live in an age groping for ways to defend itself from a ghostly enemy who appears from the shadows bringing death and terror. The man or woman who finds a way to bring the jihadists to ground will be celebrated. The politicians who fail to do that will bear the  fury of the no longer patient German voter.

All Copyrights ©Brian Thomas 2017

Fair Use: Please feel free to share, quote or use in any way this article provided you give Brian Thomas credit as its author. Thanks! If you like what you’ve found here, check my Youtube Channel : http://bit.ly/2eolQZh

 

Epiphany 2017: Terror in My Berlin Neighborhood

January 6, 2017

 

Epiphany 2017: Terror in My Berlin Neighborhood

Epiphany, January 6th, marks the official end of the Christmas season. As a Berliner who’s faith began with the star over Bethlehem, I find myself this Epiphany still grieving quietly, taking the time to stop and a reflect amidst the countless wreaths and candles lovingly laid out at the Gedächntnis Church, for the dead of the Christmas Market Attack. It was an act of terror that changed Germany, Berlin, my Charlottenburg neighborhood and me as well.

As the carnage unfolded, it was my job as a journalist to report on the bloodshed in my own back yard, at a market I had planned to attend just a few streets away the night of the attack.

My young son and I were set to go there that very night but were laid up with a sudden flu. Fate was kind. We wanted to buy matching father-son hats, an incongruous even silly idea when set beside the untold pain and anguish wrought by the Islamic State follower Anis Amri. As the police and security experts I talked to right after the attack had indicated, it now very much looks like he had help.

How far his jihadist network extends, which mosques and hate preachers it includes, is still being investigated. It appears some of them, like an apparent fellow Tunisian accomplice, are right here in Berlin. My Berlin.

 

Our planned Christmas outing was exactly the kind of fun many others, celebrating the sheer joy of Christmas were looking forward to that night: buying gifts for loved one, sharing a mulled wine with friends and colleagues, taking in the nativity scene, the lights, the happy crowds. Dispelling the dark gloom of long winter nights.

Those who died that night, from this city and from around the world – from Italy, Israel, Ukraine, Poland – were not so fortunate. I pray for them, that the pain of loss their families will bear for a lifetime may ease with the years. Right now, I can’t lift this heavy feeling in my heart.  A similar pall shrouded me as I reported on the Islamist attacks in Brussels in March that left 32 dead and on the Paris terror attacks that left 130 dead. As an international journalist, sharing in collective grief comes with the territory these days.

Both cities I know well, especially Brussels where I have worked. But seeing Berlin, my Berlin, my neighborhood, my home for almost two decades, so brutally attacked, its citizens and guests murdered and maimed, caused a different quality of grief and rage:

I felt what it was like to have my life, my family, our home threatened by fanatics who hate us and would see us dead.

Terror has passed through my door and made itself comfortable at my fire.

It is a bitter realization – especially since the suspected attacker was a failed asylum seeker who flaunted German law for years and managed to gain a foothold here thanks to government policies and taxpayer support. The same no doubt applies to the men and women in the Islamist underground who groomed, supported and aided his vicious attack.

In a different age, my ancestors would have girded up their loins for war and sought revenge. Blood for blood. It’s still the response in many parts of the world. It’s primal and definitely not Christian or Enlightened, but it is no doubt extremely cathartic.

In our Global Age though, complete with an Internet of Things Islamist Network funded by oil-rich sheiks, vengeance, and divided societies, is exactly the response those who seek our destruction want to see.

Vengeance and blood debt are sad and failed chapters from their book, not ours.

Thes lack the self-reflection and self-criticism that has made European civilization, with ist science, medicine, art, music and culture the wonder and glory of the world.

 

This weekend, I will again be riding my bike down to the Gedächtnis Church to light a candle for the dead. I will be searching my heart for a forgiveness that is hard to find right now. I won’t be struggling with the rage that has subsided or with a vengeance that’s not part of my make-up or my culture. But I will be clearing my mind of the doubts I have that our society, our leaders, that we are in any way equipped to vanquish this vicious enemy.

For me, the holiday season came to an end well before Epiphany.

It ended with a jihadist murder spree on the Kudamm.

But there was no let up to the slaughter this Christmas season. It continued in short order with another Islamic State attack in Istanbul. Two cities, Berlin and Istanbul, now united in mourning and sorrow.

2017 will be the year we learn how to track down and stop the jihadists in our midsts.

Or we will have to learn to grieve like we did in 2016.

It’s a new kind of Epiphany in my Berlin neighborhood.

All Copyrights ©Brian Thomas 2017

Fair Use: Please feel free to share, quote or use in any way this article provided you give Brian Thomas credit as its author. Thanks! If you like what you’ve found here, check my Youtube Channel : http://bit.ly/2eolQZh

 

 

Terror Shaken Germans Look For Leadership and Get a”Nafri” Debate

January 3, 2017

Anis Amri was A North African

Twelve families have been holding funerals and burying their dead from the Christmas Market truck attack just a few streets away from me in Berlin. Among them this young and vibrant woman from Italy. When I look at Fabrizia’s face, there is something so familiar. So alive. So aware. She reminds us, smiling somewhat shyly, we could have been among the dead. Or that she could have been our daughter, our sister, our wife, our friend. The victims are all too often forgotten. We need to stop doing that. We need to look at their faces. Again and again and again.

The man who killed her was, according to police, a North African. German media are still ablaze with questions about how they failed to arrest him before he killed and maimed so many innocents. Anis Amri was a rejected asylum seeker from Tunisia and had migrated to Italy and then to Germany. He was even under police surveillance, as are dozens of other North African men, as a terrorist threat.

Forgetting the Victims of New Year’s 2016

Instead of clear answers and a rigorous policy debate about the heightened threat we are all facing from radicalized Islamists like Amri, Germans are being treated to a fake news debate about police in Cologne using inappropriate language.

They have referred to young men from North Africa like Anis Amri as „Nafris.“ The Greens are up in arms.

The debate began in Cologne, where North African gangs ran rampant one year ago. It was sparked by an offended Green politician, upset that police used the designation „Nafri.“

It’s short for „North African.“ German officialdom is prey to neologisms, and this one refers to culprits, mainly from that region, who individually and en masse assaulted, robbed, groped, and even raped, hundreds of women last year in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

Cologne was not alone

A similar catastrophe befell female partygoers in other Geman cities, including Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin and Munich, as well. No other metropolis though saw the sheer level of depredation that Cologne did. We still have no comprehensive number, nor do we have a nationwide assessment of what happened that night one year later. That, not an inappropriate use of language, is the true national scandal. That is the true outrage. And that is the background to both the neologism and its use by police.

Who’s being insensitive here?

If this neologism is insensitive, so too is the failure by politicians and the media to acknowledge the role North African men had in the assaults of New Year Even 2016.

It is insensitive to the women of Cologne who were injured, robbed, assaulted and raped.

It is insensitive to their families and friends who have suffered with them, and continue to do so.

It is insensitive to the officers that night, who lacking support from their superiors, risked their own safety to help the victims and were injured in the process.

It is insensitive to the emergency teams, overwhelmed by the level of violence and the number of victims.

It is an insensitivity that, at this hour, is misplaced and mocks the suffering of so many not only in Cologne.

Here in Berlin, our thoughts are still very much with the victims of the murderous attack carried out by a North African.

The North African Jihadist Network?

A possible network of jihadist supporters is being investigated right now. Could it extend all the way to the large North African community in Cologne? Is there a connection between the criminality we saw in Cologne and the radicalization of North Africans? It appears there is. Amri spent four years in prison on charges like assault and arson before he murdered a dozen people in Berlin.

„Nafri“ – The Smokescreen

The debate about „sensitive language“ is a smoke screen to protect grave Green policy mistakes and is little more than pandering to the base. It needs to be called out as such. But far worse, it keeps us from rigorously discussing the Islamist and criminal threat we are facing from North African men who are here with no chance of asylum and who have yet to leave voluntarily or be deported. These individuals are a drain on our public coffers, and the worst of them are a threat to public safety and even our lives.

These are unpleasant facts. The debate will be difficult. It is overdue.

The Chancellor indicated she understood this in her New Year’s address, but there is still a widespread lack of determination to confront political Islam and the criminal world that harbors and feeds it.

Denying the facts and posing on some imagined moral high ground with issues of linguistic nuance amounts to cowardice in the face of the enemy. If you doubt we are facing a committed and implacable enemy, come with me to the sidewalk in Berlin where they still haven’t managed to scrub away the blood.

The Wrong Message

This contrived debate belongs to another era. It reeks of the 80’s. The Greens will discover that at the ballot box soon enough. The Free Democrats had a similar disconnect with the public five years ago and are hoping to return from their wanderings in the wilderness. They’ve learned their lesson – security is their new holy grail. The Greens will look back at this moment in befuddlement and wonder why voters worried about their physical safety abandoned them en masse them for the CSU, FDP and the AFD.

Cologne’s police chief has performed the expected ritual abasement and apologized for the term. He shouldn’t have. It sends the wrong message and removes the focus from the true victims. And it undermines the work being done by the police in Cologne.

And what about the North African jihadists and common criminals the police are trying to protect us from? They will see this disingenuous debate as yet another sign of our lack of unity in confronting them. It will serve to embolden them.

We must start the debate now as to how to return all North Africans with no legal right to be here to their home communities as humanely and as quickly as possible. The debate may have already started. Anything less is too grave a risk to all of us, including those who come here as our guests – like Fabrizia.

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2016: My Three Top Political Interviews

January 2, 2017

2016: My Three Top Political Interviews

Looking back at 2016, I had the humbling opportunity to talk to so many insightful individuals and unique voices, and when I take this opportunity to thank them all, I know I’m speaking for my viewers as well.

This year I’m using their feedback (from various platforms) as a basis for my choice of 2016 Top Three Political Interviews. Enjoy !

1.) Jens Spahn : The Man Who Would Be Chancellor

MdB, Finance Ministry, Parliamentary State Sec.

Jens Spahn is often touted as the CDU’s young rebel to help the party regain its luster as the star of Angela Merkel fades with each passing terrorist attack committed by an asylum seeker, failed or otherwise. His threat is especially sharp in that he owes the Chancellor nothing for his stellar career and can only gain from her being toppled. He’s backed by a bevy of young conservatives chafing to take to the ramparts and fight for a hard conservative edge to replace the muddied contours of a conservative CDU party softened by its third Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats. He’s even been described as Merkel’s Gottesdämmerung.

He was open to all my questions, quick off the mark, and not afraid to make (at the time) controversial statements like his call for banning the burka in Germany.

Check out Jahn here.

2.) Ian Duncan Smith : The Brexit Sage Who Proved Right

Tory Luminary, Sec.of State for Work and Pensions (Frmr.)

It’s always a pleasure to talk with people fighting their corner when the whole world is against them. Those are my favorite interviews and frankly, my favorite type of individual as well: call it the Anglo-American love of the Underdog, cuddly and otherwise. Mr.Smith, a wily political operator, is hardly cuddly. When I interviewed him, the Brexit campaign was lagging so far in the polls that few thought it had a snowball’s chance in Hell. Duncan didn’t doubt it and eloquently held forth with his arguments for the Leave Campaign with a conviction that should make any other Highlander proud. It made him very cuddleable. In a way.

His cause won the day, and as every Remainer knows, Brexit wasn’t the snowball in hell, but the Monster Snowman from Hell (let’s hope the child with that Snowman isn’t Frexit waiting to grow up).

Thumbs up for Ian Duncan Smith fighting like a lion for his side when it was expected to be handed a humiliating defeat.

Check out Ian here.

 

3.) Pavlo Klimkin : David versus Goliath

Ukrainian Foreign Minister

No matter where you stand on the Ukraine debate, no matter whether you are a Putin-Versteher or a Putin-Hater, you have to admit Ukraine occupies an unenviable place in history, geography and in its leadership. I found Pavlo Klimkin to be a refreshingly open man and a bright light in a region that has known so much deception and so many disappointments. He was here in Berlin for consultations with the Group of Four Foreign Ministers on the Minsk Agreements and was willing to engage me on issues that are anathema for Kiev, like autonomy for the breakaway pro-Russian region. Ukraine can use more men like Klimkin. He’s a trained physicist, a capable diplomat, and a dedicated patriot. He seemed to be willing to stand up for the rights of Ukrainians as Russia, especially after its victory in Aleppo, is likely to push hard for its strategic goals, including in eastern Ukraine.

Check out Pavlo here.

Thanks again to all my guests, and to all my viewers and readers. Together, we can keep the torch of free speech burning, one spark at a time.

May your 2017 be filled with health, happiness, and many blessings.

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Did Russia help out the Trump campaign?

December 11, 2016

 

putin

© 2014 Global Panorama, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Barack Obama, in the fading days of his tenure as head of the world’s indispensable nation, has, in effect, called into question the legitimacy of America’s bitterly contested elections.

He’s alleging foreign interference by none other than his nemesis, the man who thwarted his „red lines“ in Syria and caught him back footed in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin.

It was a claim also put forward repeatedly and forcefully by his former heir apparent, HRC. „The Woman the World Thought Would Rule,“ Hilary Rodham Clinton, began making the charge once a Trump victory seemed possible.

You don’t have to be a Republican to raise the possibility that Obama’s charges against Moscow are politically motivated.

New Hope for the Restoration

Even after Green candidate Jill Stein’s failed recount, millions of Democrats continue to hope for a deus ex machina to put their choice in the White House. Half the nation, vengeful and sullen after an acrimonious election that handed them a defeat, want a Restoration.

The new charges against Moscow coming from the White House give hope to those who believed a recount could, in the end, nudge Clinton into the Oval Office.

Clinton, after all, did win the popular vote.

There are questions about counting  irregularities in some districts.

And some electors to the Electoral College have indicated they may change sides.

Could the sum of these parts, together with the new claims by Obama, keep Donald Trump from claiming the office of the president ?

The possibility is not as outlandish as it sounds.

 

caveat-emptor

Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware

Until you closely examine the latest documents and  individuals that soon to be Citizen Obama has quoted that call the election into question.

They do not hold up to scrutiny.

The source is Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning bastion of liberal press freedom. There According to Politifact:  “Based on the evidence, it seems highly unlikely that actions by the Russian government contributed in any decisive way to Trump’s win over Clinton.” There’s also a word of caution, though.   Researchers point out that “policymakers should still be concerned about the possibility that a foreign government might have attempted to meddle in a domestic election.” So the conclusion is, we need more evidence and more openness before we can make a decision.

 

constituon-new

 

„A First, a First! My Kingdom for a First! „

Here in Berlin, where we enjoy neither the shield of the 1st Amendment nor the Anglo-American tradition of a fair and free press rooted in the toppling of an empire two centuries ago, „unnamed sources“ are viewed with less suspicion. Not just in Germany, but across the Continent at large, which has lurched from one Empire to the next, an American-style free press remains a distant dream. Let me fill you in on France’s new speech law  regarding pro-life sentiment. Unthinkable for Americans.

And so the German press, led by what has been a reliable source for many, the FAZ, gave the front page of ist digital edition this weekend to unnamed sources in Berlin claiming the Russians „could“ influence the German elections in September 2017. The release of this story coincided with the statements from the White House. It was a strong tailwind from the German capital, which is home to a Chancellor Brack Obama has referred to as „my closest friend and ally.“

Here’s the original link in German and one in English. It cites „unnamed sources in the Chancellery, the Interior Ministry, and intelligence community“, They claim  Russia is planning „a disinformation campaign“ and possible „cyber attacks on computer infrastructure.“

Timing is Everything

Was the timing of the Berlin announcement coordinated to bolster and   corroborate the unnamed sources in the US intelligence community ? The German report certainly gives added weight to the idea that  Russia is committed to undermining US elections, and western elections in general.

It’s a question that a vigorous and skeptical press must ask.

And does it not, ironically, amount to the German government or its intelligence arms, stepping in and trying to influence the outcome, if not the aftermath, of the US election ?

Either intentionally, or unintentionally ?

As Obama claims Russia sought to influence the election itself, we find Germany in effect weighing in on the side of Obama and the Democrats in this still very messy affair.

It would have served German interests better for these „unnamed sources“ to have remained silent or to have laid out an iron cast proof for their claims.

Otherwise, they are nothing but rumors seeking to serve one of two parties in what is for them, a foreign affair.

The Stakes are too High

If Obama can prove Russia influenced the vote, or simply call the validity of the vote into question, could that tip the scales in the final weeks before Trump’s inauguration for a second vote ? Could the election even be deemed null and void ? The prospect is daunting and horrific. America would be ripped apart by a second election.

So where is Barack Obama going with his charges ?

The stakes are too high not to name the sources.

Do so Mr.President – or remain silent. The same applies to German intelligence officials.

A free people can not see a smooth transition of power jeopardized  by statements that in a court of law would be tossed out as baseless rumors.

And so we must view them.

It’s not a matter of believing the Russians more than our own intelligence services.

It is about demanding a high standard of transparency befitting a country that calls itself „free“.

The Road Ahead : Ari Please Phone Home

Are Obama’s comments paving the way for the smooth transfer of power and an atmosphere of reconciliation?

Hardly.

And as to intelligence reports being used, misused or commissioned to achieve political ends, we have only to recall American journalism’s catastrophic failure in confronting the false claims of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in 2003.

Years after the error or deception as you see it,  then Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleisher, mockingly called American journalists covering the administration’s outrageous claims, „complicit enablers“ of the unjustified war on Iraq. Their shame hangs heavy upon them still.

 

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis paid for that free pass by the press with their lives. The effects of that ignominious conflict are still being felt today in the form of Islamic State and the migration crisis.

Looking at the evidence on hand at the moment,  my response is the same as when German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fisher confronted US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld just before the Iraq War. The issue in 2003 as now was CIA intelligence reports. My assessment  :

Excuse me, I am not convinced.“