Commence Operation “EU crack up,” phase two!

May 8, 2012

Phase One was the unending financial crisis that began in 2008 and the Europeans’ unwillingness to anything that would really address the problem, instead choosing to keep feeding the beast of debt and taxation. Sickened by the failure of their political class (and made delirious by their own addiction to the teat of the State), European voters are responding by throwing the bums out and putting radical bums in their places: a hack Socialist demagogue in France, and communists and neo-Nazis in Greece.

Now comes word that Phase Two, the bailout of banks in Spain has begun:

It was only a matter of time before the next bank bailout began despite all those promises to the contrary. Sure enough, as math always wins over rhetoric and policy, earlier this morning the shot across the Spanish bow was fired after PM Rajoy did a 180 on “no bank bailout” promises as recent as last week. From Dow Jones: “Spain may pump public funds into its banking system to revive lending and its recessionary economy, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Monday, signalling a policy U-turn. The government had pledged to not give money to the banking industry that is struggling in the wake of a collapsed, decade-long, housing boom. “If it was necessary to reactivate credit, to save the Spanish financial system, I wouldn’t rule out injecting public funds, like all European countries have done,” Rajoy said in interview with Onda Cero radio stations.

Spain is Europe’s fifth-largest economy, and its economic problems are huge, but bailing out the banks won’t make much of a difference, if any; it will merely transfer the debt burden from Spanish banks to the Spanish government, which will have to borrow the money or seek its own bailout, further burdening both the already over-taxed Spanish public — as well as German patience. It’s robbing Pedro to pay Pablo, but the bill will still come due — and it will be enormous.

With the EU’s fragile unity already threatened by a likely clash between Germany’s Chancellor Merkel and France’s new President Hollande, will the added pressures of a potential Spanish financial collapse (which would make Greece look like a block party) push the European Union and the Eurozone to the breaking point?

My guess is for at least a partial breakup within the next year, as Greece and other fiscally profligate Latin states leave the Euro so they can devalue their currencies enough to restart growth, while Germany and the other “adult” states are glad to see them go.

But with the rise of political fantasists in Greece, France, and elsewhere, one wonders if that will be enough?

via American Power

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Sunday Book Review: “The Candy Bombers”

March 18, 2012

Call it the first battle of the Cold War.

For much of 1948, the world worried that another global conflict, “World War III,” was about to break out. Over the preceding years since the end of World War II, the Soviets under Stalin had clenched an iron fist around the throats of the nations of East and Central Europe, quashing democratic movements and establishing Communist governments in Poland, Rumania, Hungary and finally Czechoslovakia, where Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk was murdered, an event that shocked and frightened the West. Stalinist Communist parties and unions threatened the weak democratic governments of Italy and France, while Communists were in open revolt in Greece, leaving people to wonder if these nations would be next.

And then Stalin blockaded Berlin.

That’s the situation in Andrei Cherny’s “The Candy Bombers: the untold story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour,” which tells the story of this increasingly and undeservedly forgotten struggle. He takes the tale from just before Germany’s surrender — the meeting of the Soviet and American armies at the Elbe and the surreal, horrific Battle for Berlin– to the moment in 1949 when Stalin lifted the blockade and the West realized it had won. The cast of characters is large, ranging from American presidents and Soviet generals to children surviving in the rubble of Berlin, and sometimes their treatment borders on cursory (often necessary in a single volume on a huge topic), but, taken as a whole, they come together in a fascinating story. That cast includes people such as:

  • Harry Truman, a hack machine politician who suddenly became president, faced with having to thread a course between appeasement and all-out atomic war (and win an election he was expected to lose);
  • Lucius Clay, an American general who had never fired a shot in battle, but who became Military Governor of Germany and found himself surrounded in Berlin;
  • James Forrestal, the brilliant, eccentric Secretary of Defense who clearly saw the Soviet threat and was desperate to get American ready for war — and who went mad in the process;
  • Ernst Reuter, a Social Democrat who rallied the people of Berlin to resist the Soviets and take a stand for democracy;
  • William Tunner, an Air Force general and logistics genius who made the Airlift work;
  • …and Gail Halvorsen, the original “candy bomber” and an “average Joe” from Utah who became a hero to the Germans and a celebrity back home.

As Cherny tells it, the story of the Berlin Airlift is one of transformations and evolutions: of individual Americans, who came to occupied Germany hating Germans and wanting to punish them hard for starting two devastating wars, but who then came to sympathize with and even like Germans, risking war to save those they could from Stalin; of the Germans, nearly stripped of civilization itself by the conquest and its aftermath (in the first years after the war, Berlin women would great each other not with “Hello,” but with “How many?”, as in “how many times have you been raped by Russians?”), who went from a shell-shocked passive hatred of Americans to shock at our generosity to eventual love and admiration, as well as passionate defenders of democracy; and of the United States as a whole, from a desperate desire after Depression and war to just enjoy life and tell the world to go away, to recognizing that a new, different war had begun and only America could lead it.

Cherny writes with a fluid, easy style that never drags. While engaging his audience and painting dramatic portraits of people and events, he never over-simplifies or resorts to cliche. One particularly effective device, one that humanizes for the reader an otherwise vast story, is the interspersing of letters from children and adults to Lt. Halvorsen, thanking him for what he was doing and often asking if he could drop candy over their houses. (One girl gave him very specific instructions about how to find her house, but Halvorsen never could. He finally mailed her the candy.) Those letters, and Halvorsen’s own back home to his girlfriend, Alta, remind the reader that the great events of history are always inhabited by individual people with names, families, hopes, and fears.

If I have but one criticism, it’s that very little is told from the Soviet view. While one meets and even comes to like individual Soviets (and even sympathize with some clearly uncomfortable with what Moscow had ordered them to do), the motives behind Stalin’s actions can only be theorized from outside, observing events as they happened. What the decision process of the USSR leadership was, what options they considered and what risks they were willing to take, are as obscure as anything hidden behind the Kremlin’s walls. Of course, the nearly non-existent access to Soviet archives (except for a brief period in the 1990s), makes this lack almost inevitable and no real fault of the author’s. Still, one wishes there was a way to “see their side of it,” even if that side is one of utter evil.

Summary: If you like narrative history that relates great events through the people who lived it, and if you yearn to read a true story of American heroics in which the good guys face huge odds and win big, you’ll enjoy The Candy Bombers.

Afterward: While Cherny’s book focuses rightfully on the American effort to supply Berlin, the British and French also played important roles, which the author notes. But it is also fair to say that, without American leadership and will behind the Airlift, it would never even have taken place, let alone succeeded. Berlin would have fallen, to the incalculable detriment of Western Europe. The Berlin Airlift truly was one of our finest hours.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Not that I can afford a Mercedes-Benz…

January 12, 2012

But, after this, slap me if I ever do try to buy one:

“Some colleagues still think that car-sharing borders on communism,” Mercedes-Benz Chairman of the Board of Management Dieter Zetsche said onstage at CES today, speaking about Mercedes’ new CarTogether initiative. “But if that’s the case, viva la revolucion!”

To be sure, a luxury-car maker like Mercedes is not actually promoting communism. But during his CES talk, Zetsche pushed hard on a vision that the company has for a greener future that allows drivers to reduce emissions by using connected and social technology to easily find compatible passengers to share rides with.

Still, it’s odd–and no doubt intended to stir up conversation–to hear a company so inexorably tied to money and lavish lifestyles invoking philosophies like communism. Especially with a picture of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara towering over Zetsche as he talked. Of course, Che’s signature beret sported a Mercedes logo.

What’s next? VW embracing its past as the “People’s Car” and using Hitler in its ad campaigns?

I could go on a rant about stupid people treating murderous tyrants such as Che Guevara as trendy fads (the ubiquitous t-shirts come to mind), but two writers have already done a fine job of showing why this is not only mind-numbingly stupid, but a nauseating insult to Che’s victims. First, Michael Gonzalez at The Huffington Post, quoting Guevara’s own words:

Hatred is the central element of our struggle! Hatred that is intransigent…hatred so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him violent and cold- blooded killing machine…We reject any peaceful approach. Violence is inevitable. To establish Socialism rivers of blood must flow! The imperialist enemy must feel like a hunted animal wherever he moves. Thus we’ll destroy him! These hyenas are fit only for extermination. We must keep our hatred alive and fan it to paroxysm! The victory of Socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims!

Then Humberto Fontova at Big Peace, who’s often written of Che’s murderous sociopathy:

“When you saw the beaming look on Che’s face as the victims were tied to the stake and blasted apart by the firing squad,” said a former Cuban political prisoner Roberto Martin-Perez, to your humble servant here, “you saw there was something seriously, seriously wrong with Che Guevara.” As commander of the La Cabana execution yard, Che often shattered the skull of the condemned man (or boy) by firing the coup de grace himself. When other duties tore him away from his beloved execution yard, he consoled himself by viewing the slaughter. Che’s second-story office in Havana’s La Cabana prison had a section of wall torn out so he could watch his darling firing-squads at work.

Even as a youth, Ernesto Guevara’s writings revealed a serious mental illness. “My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any vencido that falls in my hands!” This passage is from Ernesto Guevara’s famous Motorcycle Diaries, though Robert Redford somehow overlooked it while directing his heart-warming movie.

Guevara was also a rabid racist (see the Gonzalez link) and set in motion plans for a mass terror-bombing of Manhattan in November, 1962, a plot foiled by the FBI.

And this is the figurehead for the new Mercedes-Benz campaign.

Now, I could write something about how this shouldn’t be surprising, because MB is a German company that collaborated with the Nazis, and Naziism was form of Fascism, and Fascism is a product of the Left, as is Communism, so by extension it’s only natural that a Mercedes-Benz executive would feel drawn to Che Guevara, but that would be leaping to conclusions. (1)

It’s much more likely that Herr Zetsche is simply crass, ignorant, and stupid.

But I still wouldn’t buy his cars.

via Dan Mitchell

(1) Perhaps. Maybe.

UPDATE: Fontova on Mercedes-Benz and Che.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Anniversary of a bad idea

December 11, 2011

On this date in 1941, Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini declared war on the United States in support of their Japanese ally.

Benito, I have this great idea...

How’d that turn out for you, guys?

Mein Führer?

Berlin, 1945. Second thoughts?

Il Duce?

Not what you'd hoped for?

Prime Minister Tojo?

That worked out well, didn't it?

Maybe you should have thought about it a bit more. See, it’s generally not a good idea to make us angry.

In fact, it’s a really bad idea.


Note: This is one of a few WWII anniversary posts I put up every years.

Pat Condell: Europe needs a revolution

August 26, 2011

British comic Pat Condell rips into the anti-democratic European political class and the “European Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” with an aside for some interesting observations about the nature of the American Revolution:

RELATED: At the Telegraph, Peter Osborne argues that the EU debt crisis will finally give Germany the empire it’s always dreamed of.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

I’d like a 100-watt heat ball, please

January 4, 2011

Many of you know that the California legislature, in a valiant effort to save us from both a problem that does not exist* and a problem they helped create†, banned the evil 100-watt incandescent light bulb as of January 1st, 2011.  Those of us who’d rather not light our homes with mercury-filled, hard-to-dispose-of CFLs were beginning to fear we’d have to smuggle contraband light bulbs in from Mexico.

But, fear not, for human ingenuity and the desire to thumb one’s nose at the nanny state know no bounds! In Germany, an ingenious man has found an invention to circumvent the EU’s earlier ban on incandescents: the heat ball!

You gotta hand it to German businessman Siegfried Rotthaeuser, who came up with a brilliant run around the European Union ban on conventional incandescent light bulbs- he rebranded them as “Heat Balls” and is importing them for sale as a “small heating device”.

Rotthaeuser’s website is in German but Google does a passable job of translation. First, he’s very clear that the Heat Ball isn’t for lighting, stating (in German, the following is translated) “A HEAT BALL ® is not a lamp, but it fits in the same version!”

Further down: “The use of Heat Balls avoids the lack of heat. The intended use of heat Balls is the heating. “

The funny thing about this is that incandescent bulbs are fairly efficient when they are used as heaters, throwing off around 95% of the energy they draw as heat.

The article clucks its tongue in mild disapproval, but I like Herr Rotthaeuser’s style. Take that, Eurocrats!

Meanwhile, I need to look into getting the Heat Ball(tm) concession for California.

*Global warming, that is.

†Power shortages caused by doing everything humanly possible to block the construction of new power plants in this state.

via Moe Lane

Anniversary of a bad idea

December 11, 2010

On this date in 1941, Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini declared war on the United States in support of their Japanese ally.

Benito, I have this great idea...


How’d that turn out for you, guys?

Mein Führer?


Berlin, 1945. Second thoughts?

Il Duce?

Not what you'd hoped for?

Prime Minister Tojo?

That worked out well, didn't it?

Maybe you should have thought about it a bit more.



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