The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 4th, 2017: Look Back and Laugh…and Sigh

We need to take a break from the horror that America has become under a dark, grim authoritarian regime that’s less than two months old, and look back at what – in now-stark contrast – were the halcyon days of Barack Obama, The Laughing President.

President Obama was always at ease with himself, so he was also (almost) always at ease with foreign leaders, celebrities, his fellow Democrats, former Presidents from both sides of the aisle, even the Pope, for heaven’s sake; and even, FFS, the PRESS, that “Enemy of the American People”:

Notice that German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn't mind President Obama touching her.

Notice that German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn’t mind President Obama touching her.

Jon Steward and President Obama share a pose and a smile

Jon Stewart and President Obama share a pose and a smile

President Obama has a good laugh with David Letterman

President Obama heartily laughing with David Letterman

V.P. Joe Biden and President Obama acting casually.

V.P. Joe Biden and President Obama perform synchronized laughing.

Patently genuine laugh between Hillary Clinton and President Obama

Patently genuine laugh between Hillary Clinton and President Obama

Hillary's losing it, but Obama is happy to provide support

Hillary’s losing it, but Obama provides support

President Obama and former President Bill Clinton having a good time

President Obama and former President Bill Clinton having a good time

"THERE ARE FOUR PRESIDENTS [laughing]!"

“THERE ARE FOUR PRESIDENTS [laughing]!”

The President and The Pope

The President and The Pope

President Barack Obama's mic drop at his final Nerd Prom

President Barack Obama’s mic drop at his final Nerd Prom

But the ease and warmth that he obviously shared with so many others pales in comparison with the almost-visible aura of the unmistakable ease, warmth, humor, respect and love that he shares with his wife Michelle:

Barack and Michelle, side by side, as a loving couple should be...

Barack and Michelle, side by side, as a loving couple should be…

Date night out?

Date night out?

Now THAT'S "Class!"

Now THAT’S “Class!”

I won’t sully this brief remembrance of better times with the name(s) or photo(s) of the current fake occupier of our White House. I hope that, as I did, you couldn’t help but smile in response to President Barack Obama’s infectious grin.

[…sigh…]

This is our Open Thread, a bit late – enjoy!

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Sunday Roast: April 14th, 2013 – Four Cups of Coffee

Good Morning Zoosters. Tired? I am. So this is what I found for your Sunday Morning reading over my morning coffee:

Having my first cup of coffee, I discovered that being all powerful and so full of yourself doesn’t mean people love you. Au contraire in some notorious cases, including this:

Protesters could be arrested for “alarming or distressing” mourners at the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, a police chief in charge of security at the event has warned. (full story)

In the UK this song is No 1 in ITunes Store downloads. Ah well.

Having my second cup of coffee was my “banging head on desk” moment. I have discussed some Right Wing terrorism in Germany here and it beats me, how the court could have excluded foreign newspapers, especially Turkish ones from this trial. The Verfassungsgericht ( our version of Supreme Court) set things right.

Germany’s top court has ruled that foreign media must get access to the trial of a suspected neo-Nazi charged in connection with the murders of 10 people, including eight of Turkish descent. A Turkish newspaper had filed a complaint. The row had threatened to harm Germany’s image and was overshadowing the trial starting April 17. (full story)

Cup Number Three: It won’t go away, not in our lifetimes. The Deepwater Horizon Spill has caused more damage than BP could ever pay for in damages. Can’t we, please, start taking care of our planet? It’s our home. The only one we’ve got.

Hundreds of beached dolphin carcasses, shrimp with no eyes, contaminated fish, ancient corals caked in oil and some seriously unwell people are among the legacies that scientists are still uncovering in the wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill. (full story)

That required some lighter reading for cup four. Lest I ruin my day. Are women unrealistic when it comes to  the male of the species? I am, totally, that’s for sure, but here’s some evidence, or not.

Men have long wondered what exactly it is that women want. Some pore over men’s magazines, with their promises of “washboard abs”, for guidance. The more scientifically minded look for experimental data. (full story)

So, now I have my fifth cup, have a peek into the Formula 1 Race, then I am off to Brunch with a friend, we will then discuss what I’ve read over my fourth cup of coffee.

You all have a very pleasant Sunday, sunny happy and warm. See you all later!

This is our Open Thread. Let’s go.

Across the Pond: January 20th, 2013 – Sunday Round Up

Right. Well, I’m up anyway, so let’s check the webs.

The Hostage Crisis in Algeria seems to be over. But it ended in a bloodbath. The situation is still not quite resolved while I am typing this, but one thing is clear: All attackers and the hostages remaining in the hands of their captors are dead.

The Algerian government seems to not have thought twice about getting this done, never mind the cost. It reminds me of the Beslan massacre where a hostage taking by Chechen rebels in a school was ended by the Russian forces without any consideration of the hostages’ fate.

“The terrorists were prepared to commit a collective suicide; the army’s intervention led to their neutralisation. Unfortunately, the hostages were executed,”

said El Watan a local newspaper. Well, the public will hear the truth about this at some point.

There is, of course, the war in Mali headlining over here in Europe. You can find a very useful summary of the players involved on the BBC News website. The French are involved in a situation, which, in my humble opinion, may land them in their own version of Afghanistan. Germans are discussing what kind of contribution they can make but there’s the fact that this is a super election year which will be kicked off today in Lower Saxonia. Chancellor Merkel will, obviously, not be getting into any military adventures this year if she can help it at all. President Obama does not show any inclination to get the US involved either. 

Neu ist, dass die USA nicht instinktiv zu einer Führungsrolle innerhalb einer solchen «Koalition der Willigen» drängen. Bereits im Libyen-Krieg hatten sie nach aussen hin den Franzosen den Vorrang gelassen. Die Amerikaner übernahmen damals aber, ohne dies an die grosse Glocke zu hängen, einen beträchtlichen Teil der Lufteinsätze und halfen den Europäern aus, als diesen die Munition ausging. Obama nannte dies «Führung von hinten», was ihm einigen Spott eintrug – aber um einen Führungsanspruch handelte es sich gleichwohl. Davon kann in Mali keine Rede mehr sein.

(It is new, that the US does not instinctively claim a leading role in such a “coalition of the willing”. In the Libya war they had already let the French have the leading role, at least outwardly. The Americans, however, have at that time without making any fuss about it taken over a considerable number of airstrikes and helped out when the Europeans were running out of ammunition. Obama called this “leading from behind” which caused some ridicule, but – nevertheless – included the will to lead. In Mali there is no mention of it. Translation by yours truly

When it comes to foreign politics, looking at it from our side of the pond, New Obama, is naturally a topic of interest. The sudden change in his handling of the Republican opposition does not go unnoticed:

After being widely criticised in his first four years for a lack of savvy during negotiations with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Obama has suddenly taken a much harder line. In debates over the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of last year, Obama’s team secured a deal widely seen as a victory. That tougher stance has also been matched by Obama staking out a strong position on forthcoming talks with the Republicans in Congress over raising the debt ceiling. Indeed, only days after Obama gave a speech on the issue marked by stern language the Republicans last week appeared to cave in and moved to extend the ceiling for another three months. (read the whole post here)

About time, I’d say.

Have you finished your coffee? Not yet? Well, there’s more for reading found in the old world:

Oil and the interests of Canada’s First Nations

Catholic Hospitals refuse Aid to Rape Victim (Germany has its own bible belt, methinks)

Boeing’s Dreamliner is grounded

and

The Swiss are fretting over what will happen to their banks.

I hope you’ll enjoy your Sunday Morning reading.

This is an Open Thread! Join in. What is important to you today?

The Watering Hole, Friday January 4, 2013; “ACHTUNG, SIE VERLASSEN den AMERIKANISCHEN SEKTOR”

I know I’m not alone when it comes to having a deep and abiding concern that major factions in the United States are doggedly pursuing the imposition of a form of government which is classically defined (see: Robert Paxton) as “a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline,” i.e. Fascism. Since the advent of modern “conservative” thought and politics in this country, the slope of decline has been tilted downhill, and moreso than ever before beginning with the “election” of George W. Bush in 2000, followed by the electoral ascendency of the so-called Tea Party in 2010.

And now, as I ponder this notion of fascism slowly tightening its grip on our otherwise “We the people” form of a Constitutional Democratic Republic, for some reason or other I invariably begin to recall phrases written in, of all things, German. Like this one, for example, the words on a post-war sign at divided Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate; the sign read:

ACHTUNG, SIE VERLASSEN den AMERIKANISCHEN SEKTOR.
(Attention, you are leaving the American Sector.)

Germany was, at the time, a country divided and ‘managed’, resp., by the victors in the Second World War, i.e. the US, France, Britain, and the USSR. German fascism had been terminated by the allies, and from the ashes of war a new and democratic nation was emerging in West Germany, one which lay alongside but still quite apart from the communist state — the Soviet sector — in the East. The city of Berlin was itself entirely within the boundaries of East Germany, but West Berlin (British, French, and American sectors) was on full display as a veritable island of democratic prosperity within the otherwise bleak totalitarian state.

Fascism, however, was dead. The allied victory assured it. Well, sort of . . .  save for an apparent embedded tendency of governments in locales all around the globe to gradually succumb to those power and greed-based interests which are invariably common to political “right wing” styles of governance, a reality from which the United States has, sadly and clearly, not been exempted.

In August, 2009, Sara Robinson posted an essay on Firedoglake entitled, FASCIST AMERICA: ARE WE THERE YET? In it she writes:

It’s so easy right now to look at the melee on the right and discount it as pure political theater of the most absurdly ridiculous kind. It’s a freaking puppet show. These people can’t be serious. Sure, they’re angry — but they’re also a minority, out of power and reduced to throwing tantrums. Grown-ups need to worry about them about as much as you’d worry about a furious five-year-old threatening to hold her breath until she turned blue.

Unfortunately, all the noise and bluster actually obscures the danger. These people are as serious as a lynch mob, and have already taken the first steps toward becoming one. And they’re going to walk taller and louder and prouder now that their bumbling efforts at civil disobedience are being committed with the full sanction and support of the country’s most powerful people, who are cynically using them in a last-ditch effort to save their own places of profit and prestige.

We’ve arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we’re slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.

Ms Robinson notes that she “relied on the work of historian Robert Paxton, who is probably the world’s pre-eminent scholar on the subject of how countries turn fascist.” Paxton authored, in 1998, a lengthy and very detailed essay that was published in The Journal of Modern History in which he very precisely defined fascism and described the conditions which predict and precurse the evolution of a fascist state. Robinson quotes Paxton and by so doing effectively summarizes his fundamental thesis:

Fascism only grows in the disturbed soil of a mature democracy in crisis. . . .

From . . . the Rapture-ready religious right to the white nationalism promoted by the GOP through various gradients of racist groups, it’s easy to trace how American proto-fascism offered redemption from the upheavals of the 1960s by promising to restore the innocence of a traditional, white, Christian, male-dominated America. This vision has been so thoroughly embraced that the entire Republican party now openly defines itself along these lines. At this late stage, it’s blatantly racist, sexist, repressed, exclusionary, and permanently addicted to the politics of fear and rage. Worse: it doesn’t have a moment’s shame about any of it. No apologies, to anyone. These same narrative threads have woven their way through every fascist movement in history.

I can find no argument to counter the very real prognosis that the Constitutional Democratic Republic, America, in which many around the world have found solace and hope for nearly 250 years is teetering on the brink — not the brink of today’s oft-cited “fiscal cliff,” but one which is far more serious, far more dangerous: the Fascist cliff. And once we fall, the chances of return to what ‘We the people’ have long considered to be reality will automatically disappear; our fate will be sealed. I propose that a sign be posted on the Fascist Cliff’s most visible edge, a sign that reads:

ACHTUNG, SIE VERLASSEN JETZT den AMERIKANISCHEN SEKTOR!

Attention: You Are Leaving NOW the American Sector!

When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.  ~Sinclair Lewis, 1935

When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. ~Sinclair Lewis, 1935

This is today’s open thread. Speak your mind!

The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 15th – Europe

A Storm is brewing over Europe in more than one sense…

There is the unsolved, so called debt crisis, which entangles Spain and Italy now and has, by all accounts all but devoured Greece already. 

The second one is a political storm. In France it has swept Sarkozy out of office, in the UK the Tories got to feel quite a blustery breeze. In Germany last weekend and the one before voters were giving Merkel’s austerity politics quite strong headwinds. Again, Greece is at the center of the disturbance. The last election brought a stiff breeze from the left, but some serious gusts from the right as well. The Captains of the coffin ship contemplate to test the waters again and that should bring a solid gale from the left and swipe them off board.

Then there’s the weather. It’s really gusty and nasty outside, so much for spring. Ugh.

No matter how it eventually ends, there is some turbulence ahead for sure.

This is our Open Thread. Talk about the Weather?

UPDATE JUST IN: GREECE TALKS BROKE UP – NEW ELECTIONS DUE.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 8th – Men in Kilts

On the last Sunday in April I was in Säckingen with the boys. They have this Festival, which translates into Medieval Phantastic Spectacle, or some such. Loads of men were wearing kilts there, but I whipped my head around when a saw a guy wearing nice nature colored tartans. Little did I know I’d see the bloke on stage shortly after and, boy, this was fun to watch and listen to. The video above is from the same festival a year ago.

Other than making music, they have a charity going on. See more here and here. As the boys and me are planning for a Scotland visit this summer, we know where to go.

I could have written about the North Carolina Amendment 1 vote tonight, but it depresses me. I could have written about Greece’s troubles, but the fact that they are considering yet another vote rather than listen what the People says, depresses me. I could have written about Chancellor Merkel’s arrogance in the face of European voters’ will, but that depresses me as well. So I decided on music and men in kilts.

This is our Open Thread. Enjoy and weigh in.