Posts Tagged ‘#merkel’

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

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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

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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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