Britain’s hard lot

On December 5, Churchill telegraphed the British military commander in Athens, General Ronald Scobie: “Do not, however, hesitate to act as if you were in a conquered city where a local rebellion is in progress. . . . [W]e have to hold and dominate Athens. It would be a great thing for you to succeed in this without bloodshed if possible, but also with bloodshed if necessary.” Churchill later admitted that when composing his message to Scobie he had in mind the telegram sent to the British authorities in the 1880s by the chief secretary for Ireland, Arthur James Balfour. The telegram included the words: “Don’t hesitate to shoot.”

“It has fallen to the hard lot of Britain to play a leading part in the Mediterranean. We have great responsibilities and we have made great exertions there,” declared Churchill in the House of Commons on January 18, 1945. “We have one principle about liberated countries, or repentant satellite countries, which we strive for according to the best of our ability and resources. Here is the principle. I will state it in the broadest and most familiar terms: government of the people, by the people and for the people, set up on the basis of free universal suffrage, elections with secrecy of ballot, and no intimidation. That is, and that always has been, the policy of this Government in all countries. It is not only our aim and in our interest; it is our only care. It is to that goal that we try to make our way across all difficulties, obstacles and perils of the long road. Trust the people. Make sure they have a fair chance to decide their destiny without being terrorized from either quarter or regimented. There is our policy for Italy, for Yugoslavia and for Greece. No other interest have we than that. For that we shall strive, and for that alone.”

The prime minister was not being completely honest.

—Serhii Plokhy, Yalta, (London: Penguin, 2010), 267-68

Veterans of the November 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising, November 17, 2017. The wreaths for students killed in 1973 are laid at a monument to students killed during the 1940s resistance.

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Ist das ein Mensch?


“The whole thing felt like Game of Thrones, but with the characters from Veep,” writes Sims, an Alabaman who joined the Trump campaign as co-host of a Facebook live program run by the campaign.

This sentence gnawed at me off and on through the day today. A man seeks to explain his experiences with the White House staff by saying it “felt like” a television show about a fictional planet, with the fictional characters from another television show. This man was “co-host of a Facebook live program”. He doesn’t compare the staff of this White House with that of a previous White House, but with television shows, assuming (rightly?) that his readers will be familiar with these reference points.


Als gäbe es die Filmdokumente der Lager nicht. Die Vernichtung von Jüdinnen, Roma, Sinti, Homo­sexuellen, Kranken infrage zu stellen, Witze darüber zu machen, als feister Sack an Orten des absoluten Grauens rum­zublaffen, ist das Ende der Zivilisation.

Sibylle Berg’s Spiegel column brought back to me my experiences at Auschwitz and Fossoli in November.

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Marie Kondo kann uns nicht helfen


Doch so schön die gelösten privaten Konflikte auch sind, die allem zugrunde­liegende gesellschaftliche Katastrophe wird nicht thematisiert: das absurde Konsum­verhalten des Menschen im Spätkapitalismus. Die Reflexion dessen, welche Rolle das Kaufen spielt – für den einzelnen Menschen, aber auch für Produzent*innen und Umwelt – bleibt aus. Als problematisch werden lediglich die vollgemüllten Häuser wahr­genommen. Den Leuten einzureden, sie sollen weniger kaufen, wäre ja auch unklug. Hielten sich alle dran, würde Kondo schon mal weniger Bücher verkaufen.

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A curious broadside from Bernie Sanders is aimed at whom, exactly?

The Guardian today printed a piece by Bernie Sanders with the title “Trump’s economy is great for billionaires, not for working people” the first two-thirds of which is an attack on the Trump administration’s huge diversion of wealth to the richest 1%. Well and good, though misdirected of course. Then come these two interesting paragraphs:

While working families continue to struggle, the US now has more income and wealth inequality than at any time since the 1920s. Since the Wall Street crash [here Sanders means 2007-2009], 46% of all new income that has been created in the US has gone to the top 1%. Corporate CEOs have seen their incomes go up by 937% over the past 40 years and now make over 360 times more than their average workers. While corporate profits are near an all-time high, wages as a percentage of the economy are near an all-time low.

The most important economic reality of our time is that over the past 40 years there has been an enormous transfer of income and wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest people in America. Since 1979, the bottom 90% of Americans have seen their share of national income decline from 58 % to just 46% costing them nearly $11,000 per household.

While in his concluding section Sanders again refers to “Trump’s policies” he focuses much more on what “we must” do — “we” meaning who?

Language endlessly fascinates me, and instructional games in language classes often prompt new insight on challenges posed by my mother tongue. How does one say “class interests” in American without using the word “class”? How do you talk about American society in American without using the words “capitalism” or “neoliberalism” or “oligarchy”?

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Largest defeat for a sitting government in history


European Council President Donald Tusk has suggested that the UK should stay in the EU, after the prime minister’s Brexit deal was rejected in parliament.

“If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?”, he tweeted.

MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal, which sets out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU on 29 March.

It was the largest defeat for a sitting government in history, with 118 of the votes against coming from Prime Minister Theresa May’s own Conservative Party.

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Hoher Fläming

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Americans abroad


Tucker Carlson’s worldview doesn’t come across as particularly complex. It can be summed up in three words: Foreigners threaten America. That’s all that’s needed for good ratings.

This article makes a number of worthwhile points, I think, including the description of the way Grenell is perceived in Berlin. This morning, however, I am considering the nature of the dialectic that many Americans consider a sort of an ideological struggle with Tucker Carlson and Fox News opposed by, say, Rachel Maddow and MSNBC. How to convey the incredible myopia?

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In dubiis

On the title page of my new textbooks I find:

Der erscheint mir als der Größte,
der zu keiner Fahne schwört,
und, weil er vom Teil sich löste,
nun der ganzen Welt gehört.

Rainer Maria Rilke

I like this so much it brings tears to my eyes.

The whole poem reads


Es dringt kein Laut bis her zu mir
von der Nationen wildem Streite,
ich stehe ja auf keiner Seite;
denn Recht ist weder dort noch hier.

Und weil ich nie Horaz vergaß
bleib gut ich aller Welt und halte
mich unverbrüchlich an die alte
aurea mediocritas.


Der erscheint mir als der Größte,
der zu keiner Fahne schwört,
und, weil er vom Teil sich löste,
nun der ganzen Welt gehört.

Ist sein Heim die Welt; es misst ihm
doch nicht klein der Heimat Hort;
denn das Vaterland, es ist ihm
dann sein Haus im Heimatsort.

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William Arkin on US media coverage of the US military

William Arkin:

Despite being at “war,” no great wartime leaders or visionaries are emerging. There is not a soul in Washington who can say that they have won or stopped any conflict. And though there might be the beloved perfumed princes in the form of the Petraeus’ and Wes Clarks’, or the so-called warrior monks like Mattis and McMaster, we’ve had more than a generation of national security leaders who sadly and fraudulently have done little of consequence. And yet we (and others) embrace them, even the highly partisan formers who masquerade as “analysts”. We do so ignoring the empirical truth of what they have wrought: There is not one country in the Middle East that is safer today than it was 18 years ago. Indeed the world becomes ever more polarized and dangerous.

In an Intercept article Glenn Greenwald describes Arkin as a “longtime prominent war and military reporter, perhaps best known for his groundbreaking, three-part Washington Post series in 2010″. I know Arkin from 1980 and his book SIOP, which I used in trying to broaden people’s knowledge of the US Single Integrated Operating Plan for nuclear war.

Greenwald’s article is worth reading from beginning to end, I think. Referencing Jack Shafer:

…filling your news and analyst slots with former security state officials as MSNBC and NBC have done is tantamount to becoming state TV, since “their first loyalty — and this is no slam — is to the agency from which they hail.” As he put it: “Imagine a TV network covering the auto industry through the eyes of dozens of paid former auto executives and you begin to appreciate the current peculiarities.”

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Kick out the jams, Rashida Tlaib!


On her first full day as one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, Rashida Tlaib experienced a media storm over her vow to impeach “the motherfucker” Donald Trump. The promise, made at an event the night before, drew plenty of political pushback from her Democratic colleagues in the House.

“It’s been pretty intense,” the Michigan Democrat said.

Rashida Tlaib, with a Speaker who talks about “trying to be the mom” and “tinkle”, you and the 13th District rock!

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