Premature Evaluation: Albion’s Seed

Why is America the way that it is?

Wrong question, the author of Albion’s Seed would say. America isn’t any one way, and hasn’t been since the very beginning of European, particularly English, colonization. David Hackett Fischer puts the core of his argument straight into his subtitle: Four British Folkways in America. He identifies four distinct migrations from Britain, and to a much lesser extent Ireland, that shaped American culture and regions down to the present day. These migrations were fairly coherent in origin, destination and religion. Understanding these origins will help understand cleavages in the contemporary United States, and it will help understand America as a whole.
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North Sea neuroses

Matthias Matussek, once London correspondent of Der Spiegel and now its culture editor, not to mention brother of top diplomat Thomas Matussek, has a book out. Wir Deutschen: warum die anderen uns gern haben können is meant to be a call for a renewed German patriotism and pride in culture. This would usually suggest a very dull book, but I enjoyed it immensely. Not for the right reasons, though.

Matussek’s approach is idiosyncratic, not that there is anything wrong with that, and the book is really a collection of essays, on topics ranging from Heinrich Heine and Angela Merkel to Britain, Britain, the German economy, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the World Cup, Britain, Danish cartoonists, the East after reunification, and Britain. In fact, an obsession with Britain runs through this book like letters through a stick of rock-hardly a page passes without comparing some German institution, writer, company, statesman or building to one in Britain, and no chapter is complete with a volley of snark directed roughly westward.

Now, it is a truism that Britain and Germany share a mutual obsession. But this would be less interesting if it wasn’t for the sheer wordcount devoted to complaining about the British obsession with Germany. There is a complete chapter on Anglo-German relations, which I looked forward to-the possibilities are immense. Would he dig into the pre-1914 closeness that gave Bradford a Little Germany (and its own Nazi, Ernst-Wilhelm Bohle, born there in 1903 and later Rudolf Hess’s right hand) and Leeds a Dortmund Square, Robert Graves a relative on the Oberste Heeresleitung?

Nah. Instead, most of the chapter is dedicated to the results of a trip to Germany for some schoolteachers his brother’s embassy organised, and a pleasant but uninformative weekend in the country with John Le Carré.
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Fischer’s gain, America’s loss?

Michael Moore gives us a thoughtful article about Joschka Fischer (and some priceless Fischer anecdotes) in Slate today. Before going any farther I should make clear that I refer not to the notoriously fat filmmaker but to Michael Scott Moore, an American novelist living in Berlin. Of his fatness or otherwise I am entirely ignorant.

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German Election Political Crisis Roundup

In the maelstrom, one thing is clear: SPD General Secretary Franz Müntefering, he of the Kapitalismusdebatte, is staying in his post after the parliamentary party voted by a 93% majority to keep him. In other news: Earth continues to orbit Sun, Pope Benedict says committed to Catholicism, bear sighted shitting in woods. His talents in the smoke-filled backroom will be needed, as SPD-CDU, SPD-Green, and CDU-FDP negotiations were announced today. No word on Green-FDP conversations…and nobody wants to play with Oskar and Gregor in the naughty corner.

Angela Merkel may fall prey to the CDU’s Old Grey Man tendency as early as this afternoon, when she presents herself for re-election as parliamentary party leader. There are no other candidates, this being something of a ritual in German and Austrian politics, but if the OGMs are sufficiently angry about their campaign’s spectacular train crash, she could be on her way to join Joschka Fischer and Paul Kirchhof in obscurity by tonight…actually, hold that, she has been re-elected by 98.6% of the vote. Which is actually better than she got before the disastrous election campaign – work that out.

Here, we learn that the CSU has been thrown into a horridly intense introspection nightmare, as Dr. Gonzo might have put it, by the fact that they polled less than 50% for only the second time in their history. 49.6% doesn’t sound at all bad, until you remember that they don’t really have democracy in Bavaria, they have the CSU and its VERY long-lasting leaders, who play on Bavarian local patriotism and Catholic conservatism to claim a monster powerbase. The other parties’ comparative success may have the unintended consequence of saving Angela Merkel, because the CSU can hardly say “Told you so, we should have gone with a real man like Stoiber” if they buggered up their own campaign. Interestingly, it was none other than Edmund Stoiber who formally nominated Merkel as fraction leader – presumably signalling loyalty?

The old crook Wolfgang Schäuble, whose political career mysteriously continues to survive his disgrace in the Helmut Kohl party funding scandal, spoke out for a Jamaica coalition. He says it’s “our duty as democrats” and that a government without Merkel is “unthinkable”. Do not believe a word this man says. The Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s interviewer describes the grand coalition as the Elefantenhochzeit or elephants’ wedding – can we start using that?

In other dishonesty-related news, Franz Müntefering is trying to make out that the SPD is really the biggest single party and hence entitled to form a government on the grounds that the CDU and CSU are two separate entities. Jeer at the absurd sophistry!

Renate Künast is to take over Fischer’s duties pro tempore, reports the Austrian newspaper whose website uses frames. Check out the conspiracy madness in the forums; apparently Fischer is plotting to put Künast in so as to achieve a Jamaica coalition, because he’s a warmonger. Sometimes Der Standard’s forums make me glad I don’t live in Vienna any more and don’t have to listen to this infantile nonsense.

The appalling tabloid Bild Zeitung, who I refuse to link to, claims Schröder will drop his demand for the Chancellery if the CDU pick someone other than Merkel. Given 98.6% of them just voted for her, I take it that statement is no longer operative.

Breaking: Fischer Resigns, and a Green Light

Handelsblatt reports that Joschka Fischer, one of the Greens’ two co-leaders and the Red-Green government’s foreign minister and deputy chancellor, has announced his resignation from both his party and state offices. He will, however, take up his seat in the Bundestag. Apparently he thinks the Greens need “a new formation” (eine Neuaufstellung) and that “clarity must reign”. Further, the party needs to be led by younger people.

Perhaps more importantly, he also said that it could be “realistically expected” that the Greens would not be represented in the next government. That can only realistically mean that he expects a grand coalition – an SPD/FDP/Left or CDU/SPD/Left coalition can be ruled out with some confidence, and a CDU/FDP/Left coalition with absolute certainty. The Greens will now have to elect two new parliamentary leaders.

Which brings me to another point..
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Red light or green?

You already know, because Alex has been doing such a good job of making sure you do, that the impending German elections will be as close-run as the related campaign has been shambolic. According to the polls, the Union and FDP will outpoll the currently governing SPD-Green coalition; but not by enough for a majority. What’s more, the Union has been slipping (slightly) of late whilst the SPD are (slightly) gaining. Black/Yellow (48%) are still doing better than Red/Green (42%), but not as well as Red/Green/Even Redder1 (49%).

What’s interesting about all this, though, is the number that’s not being loudly pointed at: Red/Green/Yellow, which is currently the same as Black/Yellow. This is the so-called Ampelkoalition (‘traffic-light coalition’, based on party colours). Down in the comments to one of Alex’s earlier posts there’s been some talk about this as an increasingly likely outcome of the vote, though one commenter begs to differ.

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