This is a video about a glossy ibis feeding.
A. Wansing made this video in Germany, close to the Dutch border.
Glossy ibis photos: here.
This is a video from Germany, about the Austrian film The Great Museum at the Berlin International Film Festival.
By Bernd Reinhardt in Germany:
64th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 6
Art and commerce: Austrian documentary The Great Museum
7 March 2014
This is the sixth of a series of articles on the recent Berlin international film festival, the Berlinale, held February 6-16, 2014. Part 1 was posted February 20, Part 2 February 24, Part 3 February 26, Part 4 February 28 and Part 5.
Austrian director Johannes Holzhausen’s film The Great Museum is a fond, and at the same time, scathing documentary about the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) in Vienna. Along with his camera crew, art historian and filmmaker Holzhausen went behind the scenes to explore one of Vienna’s (and the world’s) leading museums, which manages the cultural legacy of the Habsburg dynasty.
It is a difficult legacy, says one of the participants. How can one present this art, largely produced to assert and reinforce the power of the Habsburg dynasty (one of the most important royal houses in Europe from the 11th through the 18th centuries), in a contemporary way? How can it help inspire people today? The cautious response of one museum employee—“Well, the glass cabinets are modern”—points to a real problem.
The Vienna museum complex is not only a site devoted to preserving the past, it is also a business enterprise. It is in competition with other museums and cultural institutions across the globe. The museum is subject to a rigid finance plan and has undergone budget cuts.
The sympathy of The Great Museum clearly lies with museum workers who with great dedication ensure that works of art are available to the public day after day. Again and again, Holzhausen shows artwork in the hands of employees in the process of transportation, examination or restoration. The existence of such works is entirely dependent on the careful attention and respect paid by these workers.
The head of the Vienna museum’s Collection of Arms and Armour is just such a man. We see his retirement ceremony. The museum director says a few words and shakes the man’s hand in front of the press. Shortly afterward, his file ends up in a large anonymous archive like many before and probably many after him.
When the camera pans lovingly over the rough brush strokes on a canvas, the images seem to suddenly spring to life. Each of them embodies a particular history. What secret lies behind this cartoon for a painting made by Rubens, which was later changed by other painters? And the mechanic who skillfully constructed that model battleship 150 years ago would have no doubt cursed in the course of his work, just like the modern restorer. The complicated mechanism of the piece enables a tiny band to strike up a tune and the ship’s small guns really can fire.
The tourism industry shows only limited interest for such details and the vicissitudes of history. “Eternal values” and ”myths” bring in more customers.
We witness the March 2013 ceremony reopening the “Imperial Chamber of Art”, closed for a decade of renovations, which was previously just the “Chamber of Art”. The camera pans over the magnificent ceiling to the sound of a baroque fanfare. The Austrian president appears and is respectfully guided through the splendidly decorated rooms in what is a very artificial atmosphere. The film first shows the fastidious preparation for the event by museum staff, who laboriously memorize the protocol for the ceremony. And, of course, we also know that the museum is dependent on government funding.
Any compromise between genuine art and commerce is unsustainable. Repeatedly, Holzhausen captures images revealing the vulnerability and uniqueness of old works of art. He dispenses with voice-overs, interviews and music, and relies exclusively on “fortunate accidents”.
Interview with Johannes Holzhausen
WSWS reporters spoke to Johannes Holzhausen, director of The Great Museum.
WSWS: Could you explain what your motivation was for making this film?
Johannes Holzhausen: Art played no role in my parents’ home. As a young man, I happened by chance on an exhibition of classical modern art in Munich. A door opened up for me. Suddenly I saw the world very differently.
I had a similar, formative experience in the cinema. I went out of the cinema [the first time] with the feeling that the world had changed. Art expresses itself through various media and the connecting link is knowledge. Through the study of art, one can obtain knowledge and gain a deeper appreciation of the world.
WSWS: Your film emphasizes the vulnerability of art.
JH: The employees feel a certain humility toward the objects in their care. They are proud of the fact that they are responsible for these objects, probably for the course of their working lives, and that they can pass them on unsullied to an infinite chain of successors. This applies not only to professionals in Vienna, but in general to all museums. But there is an internal fault line that runs through such a museum.
In an earlier age, the priority was the custody and maintenance of the objects for future generations. This was the thinking that lay behind the museums founded in the 19th century. Since the 1990s, museums have increasingly had to fall into line with the priorities dictated by neoliberal economics.
This manifests itself in different ways. Until the mid-1990s, Austrian museums were subsidized by the state. Then they were converted into institutions competing on the free market with a basic grant from the state. This grant has not been increased since then, meaning that the museums have to generate more and more income.
The staff has changed. Museum directors increasingly come from the private sector. The path is no longer art history studies, museum staff, curator, collection director, museum director. There are more and more appointments from the private sector, such as auction houses. The director of the Belvedere Museum [Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna], Agnes Husslein, for example, worked previously for Sotheby’s, the art auctioneers. The director of the Albertina [museum, also in Vienna] was formerly an employee of a state bank, which has its own art collection.
The measure of success for a museum is no longer the continuity of custodianship of art, but rather the number of visitors, the quota. I think this principle is completely wrong.
Art has a life expectancy that far exceeds daily updates. This has to be respected. The emphasis on the number of visitors helps strengthen tendencies that argue museums are a commercial operation. Then revenue becomes the decisive factor.
WSWS: Museums are coming under pressure to sell works of art to pay debts to the banks. This is the case at the moment at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The Portuguese government is also debating when is the best time to sell off paintings by [Joan] Miró in order to achieve maximum returns. Once again to pay off the banks. This is the way art is treated these days.
JH: Yes, you’re quite right. We have a chancellor and a president in Austria who are both Social Democrats, but neither is prepared to take a stand over such issues. This discrepancy was a point of interest for me in my film—how do they respond to such commercial pressures? Is art to be regarded under the aspect of the “Imperial”, or is there something else?
WSWS: The grand opening of the “Imperial Chamber of Art” appeared designed to direct the observer to the splendour of the Hapsburgs’ lifestyle: stressing Austria as the location of high culture. This is far removed from questions such as, who actually were the Habsburgs? What was the role they played in the 18th and 19th centuries? A period in which they were largely hated throughout Europe as fierce opponents of progress and culture.
JH: Politicians react along the lines: let’s not get too close to the real nature and history of the Habsburgs, after all their descendants still play a role today. The head of the present House of Habsburg would never have been invited to an event seriously exploring the history of his forefathers. But to surround oneself with the possessions of his grandfather, that’s quite all right. This is not a serious confrontation with history.
WSWS: Museum budgets are under threat and at the same time the prices for works of art are soaring.
JH: It’s absurd. This applies primarily to contemporary art. Pieces by [British artist] Damien Hirst change hands for sums with which, to put it bluntly, you could buy a whole room full of Rembrandts. Some years ago, I visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and went past the old masterpieces. Behind me, visitors were being conducted individually through a dark corridor that ended in a pitch-black room containing Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull [“For the Love of God”, 2007]
The whole history of European art going back hundred of years was merely the sweetener, the “warm-up band” prior to the main concert—Damien Hirst. That was crazy, such a shift of values. This is such a painful and degrading experience for any serious curator and for the museum staff.
The head of the Collection of Arms and Armour featured in the film is old school. He is no longer needed. What comes instead is a new brand: “Imperial”. One must entice visitors. But the new is merely the old under a false flag, reduced to a cheap promotional poster. The gain in knowledge through art is lost completely. Art has an enlightening power in itself, it has its own actuality. The aim must be to convey this enlightening power.
It is about the 1991 Gulf war against Iraq.
The lyrics are:
BLOOD FOR OIL
Armymen on TV, salivating
Discussing tactics, almost masturbating
Cannon fodder – it’s a Gulf War volunteer
Gonna die in the desert for the sake of a rich emir
They toasted peace in 1989
But the cold war colonels are peddling a brand new line:
Blood for oil (x4)
Saddam was a friend, a good pro Western man
When he gassed the Kurds and the teenagers of Iran
Yankee, French and Soviet arms to order
And a British supergun stopped at the Turkish border
Yeah, we’ll give you the recipe for hell….
Just keep your hands off Texaco and Shell..’
Blood for oil (x4)
And when he marched into Kuwait what did the papers say?
Did they talk about the arms dealers who helped him on his way?
No, he’s the Hitler of Baghdad, that’s why we’re off to war
But just like Hitler, he was Hitler all those years before
When the West put him in power
And business kept him in power…
A German chemical firm called IG Farben
Still trading, renamed Bayer Leverkusen
Made Zyklon B to exterminate the Jews
And lots of shit that Saddam liked to use
Now profiteers and hypocrites combine
And half the world is in the firing line….
Blood for oil (x4)
By poet Attila the Stockbroker from Britain:
Raving at carnival, ranting at the state of the world
Thursday 6th March 2014
On the road with Attila the Stockbroker
I’m writing this on the ferry on the way back from lovely gigs in Geneva, Bern and Mainz.
The last of the three was on Monday at Mainz’s notorious Carnival Day, where tradition has it that most of the local population – plus many visitors from elsewhere – dress up in ludicrous costumes, join a huge procession through the town and get absolutely paralytic.
The local punks and lefties, who mostly view this tradition as rather naff and conservative, crammed into our friend Chris’s Hafeneck pub, gave myself and my band Barnstormer a rousing reception and got equally paralytic.
Without doubt, the best Monday night gig I’ve ever done.
At this point I’m going to stop talking about me and talk about the world, because current events dictate that I go on a wide-ranging and heartfelt rant.
Ukraine? Nationalists, often led by fascists, seized half the country and the role of these fascists is conveniently ignored by the western media, because it doesn’t fit with their hallowed mantra of “people seeking freedom.”
This “freedom”? At best, freedom to be treated as expendable cheap labour by ruthless multinationals backed by the EU. At worst, freedom to start the same kind of anti-semitic pogroms their nazi collaborationist ancestors wallowed in during the second world war.
Let’s go back a bit. War not long ago in Chechnya, now a breeding ground for fundamentalist extremists who in Soviet times were viewed as an irrelevant relic from a bygone era. Same in Georgia too.
An ethnic bloodbath in the ’90s in Yugoslavia, once a peaceful socialist country where different groups intermarried and lived side by side. Oligarchs who stole the fruits of 70 years of Soviet power flaunting their obscene levels of wealth at the people whose labour created it, now rotting in poverty. Fascist gangs roaming Moscow, insulting the memory of their grandparents’ generation who gave their blood and their lives to defeat Hitler.
And people are beginning to get sick of it all. …
Not the clever, thrusting and pushy ones who cleaned up when socialism fell – of course, they trumpet their new “freedom.”
I mean the ordinary people who just wanted, and want, a job, a home and the right to raise a family in peace and security. The ones who had that before and don’t have it now.
Why, when the great and the good talk about “human rights,” do they invariably mean political rights? What about economic rights? Why is economic and social justice considered irrelevant and unimportant compared to freedom of speech? If you’re starving, relying on a food bank, freezing on the street, your human rights are being infringed just as much as someone who is locked up for their political beliefs.
Winners write history. The greedy, the pushy, the me-first won in 1989 and moulded a world in their own image while so many of the left apologised, gave up or, even worse, joined them in creating the world we have today. A world crippled by greed, insecurity, exploitation and war.
It’s time people stopped apologising and re-evaluated the past in the light of the present.
By RANNIE AMIRI:
When President Obama recently spoke on “… the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked …” he was of course referring to Russia’s concerns over unrest in Ukraine and its subsequent troop movements into the Crimean Peninsula. No such “principle” was evoked, however, when Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain in March 2011 in its violent suppression of popular, pro-reform sentiment expressed by the overwhelming majority in the Gulf island nation.
Unlike Ukraine, the peaceful protests in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout did not depose a constitutionally elected government. Obviously, the centuries-old rule of the al-Khalifa family has never been by mandate at the ballot box. Likewise, adherence to the country’s National Action Charter put forward by King Hamad al-Khalifa has been solely to the extent of perpetuating dynastic rule.
So-called liberal German media outlets such as the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit, which is close to the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and the Green Party-aligned TAZ have responded to the intensification of the crisis in Ukraine with a vehement campaign for war. As though they had received their training in Goebbels’ propaganda ministry, some commentators are openly defending fascist parties, hailing anti-Semitic militias as freedom fighters, and calling for a military strike against Russia: here.
By Ed Hightower in the USA:
Forbes 400 list of world’s richest people highlights growth of social inequality
5 March 2014
Forbes magazine published its 28th annual list of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families on Monday. In all, the research team behind the Forbes Billionaires list found a total of 1,645 billionaires worldwide as of February 12, with a combined net worth of $6.4 trillion, an increase of $1 trillion from 2013. The number of new billionaires, at 268, was the highest figure in the report’s history.
A surge in equity markets resulting from the ultra-loose money policies of the US Federal Reserve pushed the total number of American billionaires to 492, the highest of any nation. China, the foremost cheap labor platform in the global economy, boasts the second highest number of billionaires at 152. The Russian Federation, politically dominated by a narrow layer of compradors who liquidated the USSR and plundered its state assets in 1990-91, rounded out the top three nations, with 111 billionaires.
Around 100 people lost billionaire status, including 19 in Turkey, where a reversal of foreign investment flows has dashed the stock indexes and the currency, as have eight individuals in Indonesia due to the same global financial imbalances caused by the US Federal Reserve’s policies. Algeria, Lithuania, Tanzania and Uganda all saw their first appearances on the Forbes list, and Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote became the first African to make the top 25, with a fortune of $25 billion.
Microsoft founder and charter school champion Bill Gates has become the wealthiest individual in the world once again, with a yearly growth in his personal fortune of $9 billion and a total net worth of $76 billion, a sum more than four times larger than the entire municipal debt of the city of Detroit, or, stated another way, enough money to pay for four years of state college tuition in the US for 2.1 million students.
Other Internet-related persons featured prominently on the Forbes list, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg, whose fortune nearly doubled this year from $15.2 billion to $28.5 billion. Zuckerberg was the year’s biggest dollar gainer thanks to the soaring value of Facebook shares, which increased over 130 percent in the last 12 months. Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg made the list as well, as did the company’s vice president Jeff Rothschild.
The year 2013 saw windfall compensation for executives of top private equity firms, cashing in on record share values and awarding generous dividends to their investors and to themselves. A Wall Street Journal article this week, headlined “Blowout Haul for Buyout Tycoons”, examined public filings for Apollo Global Management LLC, Blackstone Group LP, KKR and Co., and the Carlyle Group LP. The article reports that the nine founders of these firms took in a total of $2.6 billion in 2013, a year-on-year increase of more than 100 percent. This amount averages over $160 million for each of the executives in question, enough to pay the starting salary of nearly 3,500 public school teachers in New York City for one year.
Of this elite, parasitic group, Leon Black, the co-founder and chief executive of Apollo Global Management, raked in the most at $546.3 million, followed by Blackstone Group’s Stephen Swarzman with $465.4 million. The three co-founders of Washington, DC-based Carlyle Group pocketed a total of nearly $750 million, more money than was spent on all of the district’s capital outlays for public schools between 2005 and 2008. Unlike the corporate giants of a previous era, which at least built railroads, factories and infrastructure, the highly profitable private equity funds that nourish today’s robber barons excel in the wholesale dismantling of entire sections of industry, buying companies or public entities, laying off the bulk of their workers, and then selling them at a profit as “competitive” enterprises.
The exploding fortunes of the world’s richest people in the last decade and a half are a consequence of a deliberate assault on the living standards of working people, including the slashing of social spending, declining real wages and almost unprecedented layoffs. A number of striking figures illustrate this fact:
* The world’s 85 richest people have more wealth than the poorer half of the world’s population combined. Some 2.4 billion people live on less than $2 per day.
* In the United States, 95 percent of all income gains between 2009 and 2012 went to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population. The proportion of income held by this layer has grown by nearly 150 percent since 1980. New records for unemployment, inequality and social misery are set on a regular basis.
To juxtapose the enormous and growing opulence at the top of society on the one hand, with the increasingly wretched, untenable position of most of the world’s population on the other, is to pose the necessity of socialism. Plainly said, society cannot afford the financial aristocrats, who make the feudal monarchs of the past look modest by comparison.
For more than 10 years, statistics on income and wealth distribution in Germany regularly reveal the same findings: the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the social divide is growing: here.
This video says about itself:
Merkel Calls Obama And Tells Him NSA Spying On Her “COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE”
23 Oct 2013
There are claims that the US could be spying on Germany’s leader – that’s according to local media reports. It’s the second time in just a few days that Washington’s been left red face over its controversial spying programme.
By Konrad Kreft in Germany:
NSA listens in on the German chancellor’s contacts
1 March 2014
After President Barack Obama promised not to listen in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls, the National Security Agency (NSA) stepped up its operations against those she speaks to. News of the spying emerges from a report published by Bild am Sonntag last Sunday.
According to the paper, the NSA is currently spying on 320 high-level targets in Germany, “mainly decision-makers from the field of politics, but also from business.” In particular, this select group includes those close to the chancellor. Specifically, the paper names Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (Christian Democratic Union, CDU), who was also the target of an NSA wiretap when he was defence minister.
The businesses being targeted include Europe’s largest software maker SAP, a competitor of the US company Oracle.
Bild cites an anonymous NSA informant, but also spoke with Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council of the United States.
The NSA has 297 agents working in Germany, the newspaper reports. Following Obama’s order not to eavesdrop on Merkel, the NSA has intensified its espionage activities. “We have orders not to allow any loss of information after the chancellor’s communications may no longer be directly monitored,” the paper quotes its informant saying.
The spokeswoman for the National Security Council justifies the NSA’s spying activities by pointing out “that the United States collects intelligence information in the same way it is collected by all states”.
Both Germany’s overseas spy agency, the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), and its domestic counterpart, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, benefit from the NSA’s extensive wiretapping, writes Bild. For this reason, “senior US intelligence officials” were not impressed by “the Germans’ duplicity”, which followed “the recent fuss about Merkel’s wiretapped phone”.
In reality, the German government has no objections to people being spied upon in Germany and around the world, to which end the German and US intelligence services collaborate closely. But they have protested against espionage that affects the government itself and the economic interests of German companies.
It is in this context that the $185 million project to lay a new fibre optic cable across the Atlantic from Europe directly to Brazil should be seen. So far, all Internet data connections have run from Europe to South America via the United States.
The connection between the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil should be completed in the coming year, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said at the EU-Brazil Summit earlier this week in Brussels. Rousseff has also been spied on by the NSA. She also emphasized that she “does not want companies to be spied upon.”
The revelations of Edward Snowden concerning the wiretap operations of the American and British intelligence agencies in Europe have triggered considerable transatlantic tensions. Both German and American politicians have since endeavored to smooth things over.
However, Washington would not countenance a “no-spying agreement” that German politicians had insisted upon. President Obama was only prepared to limit the interception of friendly heads of state, as he announced in mid-January in a keynote speech. In parts of the German establishment, this attitude provoked some harsh criticism, including demands for economic sanctions against the United States.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who had previously spoken with restraint, referring to ongoing and confidential discussions between the Germans and Americans, then sharply criticized the US intelligence agencies at the Munich Security Conference in January: “The harm done to German interests is huge. The explanations we have received are insufficient. The political damage is greater than the security policy benefits across the Atlantic.”
According to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, de Maizière called on the German government to send a “signal” against the NSA’s spying operations, but rejected the idea of a “no-spying agreement”: “What’s to be regulated? And who is going to control that?” Instead, he urged the United States to send “a signal to one of its main European allies”.
In mid-February, newsweekly Der Spiegel reported that the German government was planning “to deploy its own spies against partner countries like the US”. The “breaking of a taboo” was not yet decided, but was agreed by all the members of the coalition government, even the traditionally pro-US Christian Social Union (CSU). The magazine quoted the Social Democratic Party (SPD) domestic affairs expert Michael Hartmann saying, “We must protect ourselves, regardless from where danger threatens.”
Wiretapping, recruiting sources or observations of the Western partners were not initially considered, but we should “do everything to find out what is going on, especially in embassies and consulates—who works there and what technical possibilities exist.” For example, determining whether German government agencies are being surveilled from the US embassy in Berlin.
The German Secret Service had already “called on the US Embassy to provide the names and information about diplomatically accredited intelligence representatives in Germany”. In addition, the head of the Secret Service, Hans-Georg Maassen, demanded information about “which private firms the Americans were cooperating with in Germany in the area of espionage”, Spiegel writes. Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) was currently discussing whether it “should not also cast its eye more in the direction of friendly intelligence services when conducting counter-intelligence operations.”
In addition, Justice Minister Heiko Maas, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel (all SPD members) have agreed with their CDU colleagues Peter Altmaier (Chancellery) and de Maizière (Interior Ministry) not to stop a criminal investigation of espionage activities in Germany initiated by the federal attorney general for political reasons.
But the White House is not prepared to make concessions. Bild am Sonntag quoted Caitlin Hayden saying, “If our intelligence agencies continue to gather information about the intentions of governments … all over the world, in the same way as the intelligence service of every other country does, we will not apologize for the fact that our services may work more effectively.”
This video from Britain is called Robin Hood – Music and Lyrics.
According to legend, Robin Hood lived in the Middle Ages in England. He is said to have stolen from the rich to give to the poor.
Today, there lives an ultra-conservative Roman Catholic bishop in Limburg, Germany. He would like very much to go back in time to the Middle Ages (but, a Middle Ages without Robin Hood … God forbid). This bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-von Elst stole from the poor to give to the rich. Well, not to all rich … basically just one rich person: the Most Reverend Franz-Peter Tebartz-von Elst himself.
From South African news agency SAPA:
Bling bishop built lavish home using funds for poor
Monday 17 February 2014 – 2:27pm
MUNICH – Catholic bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-von Elst came under fire again Monday in connection with allegations of lavish spending on his new residence in Germany.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung citing an internal church report expected to be sent to Pope Francis on Wednesday claimed that “millions of euros” from a charitable church foundation were diverted and funneled into the construction project in Limburg, western Germany.
Costs for the bishop’s residence have come to more than 31 million euros (42 million dollars) -six times the initial estimated cost of construction.
Insiders told Sueddeutsche Zeitung costs could now spiral to up to 40 million euros.
According to the church report, the diverted funds – donations from Catholic workers – were originally earmarked to help poor families.
Tebartz-von Elst and his team reportedly developed an intricate system and put pressure on diocese employees to keep their elaborate plans for the bishop’s residence secret.
Tebartz-von Elst, referred to by the international press as the “bling bishop,” was suspended by the Vatican in October.
According to the church report cited by the newspaper, Tebartz-von Elst sees no need to tender his resignation and remains convinced of having made only relatively minor mistakes.
The 54-year-old was accused of giving false statements in two public affidavits about expensive flights he took to India to visit poor communities in 2012.
After Hamburg prosecutors agreed to a settlement payment of 20,000 euros (27,400 dollars), the case was put on hold in November and ultimately terminated in late December.
German prosecutors have since closed their court case against Tebartz-von Elst.
The cleric has been living in a cloister in southern Bavaria. It remains unclear whether he will return to his diocese in the state of Hesse.
USA: Church So Poor It’s Closing Schools, So Rich It Builds a Palace: here.
This video is called Causes of World War 1 – Militarism.
By Ulrich Rippert in Germany:
German government steps up military operations
17 February 2014
The German government is fiercely promoting an aggressive imperialist foreign policy. At the beginning of the year, it declared an end to the previous policy of military restraint. Shortly thereafter, it announced plans to develop a new strategy for Africa.
Last Wednesday, this was followed by the announcement that the German Navy was to be sent to the Mediterranean to fulfill a “robust mandate”. Official statements revealed that the frigate Augsburg is to aid in securing the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons on a US vessel, Cape Ray. The use of combat forces is not ruled out in the operation.
This decision is in line with US President Barack Obama’s announcement that he reserves the right to militarily intervene in Syria. At a joint press conference with French President François Hollande in Washington on Tuesday, Obama stressed that a military option in Syria was not off the table.
At the same time, Berlin is toughening its foreign policy offensive in the Ukraine. In his first official visit to Moscow last week, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democratic Party, SPD) warned the Russian government against escalating the Ukrainian power struggle. “Nobody should seek to ignite the fuse to that powder keg”, said Steinmeier.
In fact, Berlin itself is fanning the flames of conflict in Ukraine. It supports the opposition and co-operates closely with Vitali Klitschko and his UDAR party, which is strongly supported by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Via the Adenauer Foundation, the German foreign ministry also has links to Oleh Tyahnibok, chairman of the far-right anti-Semitic Svoboda party.
The foreign policy offensive for more robust Bundeswehr (German army) operations abroad are high on the agenda of the first meeting of the CDU-SPD coalition committee early next week. Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) and Development Minister Gerd Müller (Christian Social Union, CSU) will meet afterwards to discuss details and coordinate procedures.
Foreign office spokesman Martin Schäfer emphasised that a future focal point of the new foreign policy will be Africa. He added that a new Africa strategy was overdue, but its deliberation and development had been underway in the interior ministry for a long time. “Africa is much more than a continent of crises. There are also a lot of opportunities there”, said Schäfer, adding: “Several African countries show growth rates that are significantly higher than those in the European Union.”
Schäfer went on to say that Germany wanted to significantly expand economic cooperation with a number of African countries. He revealed that the German economy is looking to profit from both the market opportunities and natural resources available in Africa. However, the foreign office prefers to keep its own interests in the background, claiming that it is mainly motivated by humanitarian and security concerns. Schäfer said the goals of German “economic support” were to stabilise African countries and avoid further conflicts.
Immediately after the Munich Security Conference two weeks ago, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen travelled to Senegal and Mali to announce the expansion of the Bundeswehr’s training contingent in Mali from 180 to 250 soldiers.
During her visit to barracks on the Niger River, where a vanguard battalion of approximately 100 German soldiers is already stationed, she rejected criticism of the expansion of Bundeswehr missions abroad. “There have been times when 11,000 male and female soldiers were serving abroad. Currently, there are 5,000 because operations in Afghanistan are drawing to a close”, she said. She declared that the Bundeswehr had the capacity to undertake additional operations.
On Monday of last week, Berlin also confirmed that there is discussion of renewed Bundeswehr participation in the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in the crisis-torn East African state of Somalia. Until the end of last year, Germany had been involved in training Somali military units in Uganda, deploying about 20 soldiers there. When the mission moved into Somalia early this year, the Bundeswehr initially terminated its engagement, because the security situation was considered to be too unstable. This assessment has apparently now been revised.
At the end of January, the n-tv news channel reported on what lies behind the humanitarian arguments currently used to propagate the new Africa strategy.
Titled “Uranium, gold, diamonds, minerals: Germany discovers Africa”, its report examined German business interests regarding the country. It began with a quotation from Wolfgang Ischinger, who heads the Munich Security Conference. Ischinger said Germany had a lot of catching up to do and “Africa should not be left to the Chinese.”
This video says about itself:
31 Jan 2013
Mali‘s natural resources
Gold: Mali: Africa’s third largest gold producer with large scale exploration ongoing. Mali has been famous for its gold since the days of the great Malian empire and the pilgrimage to Mecca of the Emperor Kankou Moussa in 1324, on his caravan he carried more than 8 tonnes of gold! Mali has therefore been traditionally a mining country for over half a millennium.
Mali currently has seven operating gold mines which include: Kalana and Morila in Southern Mali, Yatela, Sadiola and Loulo in Western Mali, and mines which have recently restarted production notably Syama and Tabakoto. Advanced gold exploration projects include: Kofi, Kodieran, Gounkoto, Komana, Banankoro, Kobada and Nampala.
Uranium: encouraging signs and exploration in full swing. Exploration is currently being carried out by several companies with clear indications of deposits of uranium in Mali. Uranium potential is located in the Falea area which covers 150 km² of the Falea-North Guinea basin, a Neoproterozoic sedimentary basin marked by significant radiometric anomalies. Uranium potential in Falea is thought to be 5000 tonnes. The Kidal Project, in the north eastern part of Mali, with an area of 19,930 km2, the project covers a large crystalline geological province known as L’Adrar Des Iforas. Uranium potential in the Samit deposit, Gao region alone is thought to be 200 tonnes.
Diamonds: Mali has potential to develop its diamond exploration: in the Kayes administrative region (Mining region 1), thirty (30) kimberlitic pipes have been discovered of which eight are show traces of diamonds. Some eight small diamonds have been picked in the Sikasso administrative region (southern Mali).
Precious stones consist of the following and can be found in:
Circle of Nioro and Bafoulabe: Garnets and rare magnetic minerals
Circle of Bougouni and Faleme Basin: Pegmatite minerals
Le Gourma — garnet and corindons
L’Adrar des Ilforas — pegmatite and metamorphosing minerals
Hombori Douentza Zone: quartz and carbonates
Iron Ore, Bauxite and Manganese: significant resources present in Mali but still unexploited. Mali has according to estimates more than 2 million tonnes of potential iron ore reserves located in the areas of Djidian-Kenieba, Diamou and Bale.
Other mineral resources and potential in Mali
Calcarous rock deposits: 10 million tonnes est. ( Gangotery), 30 million tonnes est. ( Astro) and Bah El Heri ( Nord de Goundam) 2.2 Million tonnes est.
Copper: potentialities in Bafing Makan ( Western Region) and Ouatagouna ( Northern Region)
Marble: Selinkegny ( Bafoulabe) 10.6 MT estimated reserves and traces at Madibaya
Gypsum: Taoudenit (35 MT est.), Indice Kereit ( Nord de Tessalit) 0.37 MT est.
Kaolin: Potential estimated reserves ( 1MT) located in Gao (Northern Region)
Phosphate: Reserve located at Tamaguilelt, production of 18,000 t/per annum and an estimated potential of 12 million tonnes. There are four other potential deposits in the North of 10 million tonnes.
Lead and zinc: Tessalit in the Northern Region ( 1.7 MT of estimated reserves) and traces in Bafing Makana (Western Region) and Fafa (Northern Mali)
Lithium: Indications in Kayes (Western Region) and estimated potential of 4 million tonnes in Bougouni (Southern Region)
Bitumen schist: Potential estimated at 870 million tonnes, indications found in Agamor and Almoustrat in the Northern Region.
Lignite: Potential estimated at 1.3 million tonnes, indications found in Bourem (Northern Region)
Rock Salt: Estimated potential of 53 million tonnes in Taoudenni (Northern Region)
Diatomite: Estimated potential of 65 million tonnes in Douna Behri (Northern Region)
The Ulrich Rippert article continues:
The programme warned that, compared to China, Germany was lagging behind. Since the early 1990s, China had been engaging in a “veritable spending spree”, acquiring strategic resources and increasingly winning favour in many African countries. The secret of Chinese policy towards Africa was seen to lie in the fact that, in exchange for raw material supplies, Beijing was building “schools, hospitals and stadiums for the common people.”
The n-tv report cautioned that a new German strategy with respect to Africa should not be perceived as a neo-colonial venture. However, it also suggested that, “if Germany engaged with France, for example in central Africa, one would be able to speak of a European instead of a German raw materials policy.”
The television report went on to propose that the Central African Republic (CAR) could develop into a testing ground for this kind of cooperation. Although the landlocked African country north of the Congo is almost twice the size of Germany, it has virtually no infrastructure. Some 60 percent of the population is illiterate and very poor. However, the former French colony possesses great economic advantages: it is rich in gold, diamonds, uranium, timber, coffee and numerous other commodities.
It was also speculated that other mineral resources would likely be available in the country; these included copper, graphite, iron ore, kaolin, lignite, limestone, manganese, quartz, salt and tin. “And by no means can it be said that the Central African Republic has yet been fully explored”, the n-tv report enthused.
The “new Africa strategy” has nothing to do with safeguarding humanitarian aid, as Steinmeier and von der Leyen claim. Rather, it recalls the “scramble for Africa” that occurred at the height of imperialism on the eve of World War I—when Germany colonised what is now Namibia, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Togo. The current deployment of combat troops in Mali also serves the imperialist interests of the German economy. Geostrategic interests, like those pursued by the German Africa Corps (DAK) during the Second World War, are also part of the strategy.
A series of European Union (EU) discussion papers and meetings have made it clear that the European powers are pushing for a more assertive militarist policy. The unfolding of this aggressive imperialist foreign policy takes place amid concerns that these powers are, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, losing influence in the scramble for vital energy resources and markets in Asia and Africa: here.
This video says about itself:
Pope Suspends German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst ‘Bishop Bling’ Over $42 Million Home
24 Oct 2013
Translated from Der Spiegel weekly in Germany:
Scandal bishop: commission presents evidence against Tebartz van Elst
Investigations on the Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter van Elst Tebartz, according to information obtained by Der SPIEGEL, are nearing completion. The commission of inquiry has found serous evidence against this religious leader. Among other things, the bishop’s pompous construction projects are said to have been be financed with foundation funds.
Investigations on the Limburg church construction scandal are expected to be completed as early as this week with surprisingly clear results. They are said to, according to information obtained by Der SPIEGEL, to be a sharp indictment of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. The five-member ecclesiastical commission of inquiry seems to have succeeded to document justiciable results that could lead to a prosecutor’s investigation against the religious leader.
The church investigators in their research of forensic clues first followed up on secret records, which were stored in the specially rented rooms of a kind of safe house in Limburg. There they found the most important documents relating to the religious scandal building. Lack of clues for code initially delayed the investigation. Some previously unknown financial papers turned out to definitely have episcopal signatures on them.
This video from Switzerland is called Menahem Pressler – Interview – Verbier Festival 2013.
By Verena Nees in Germany:
Pianist Menahem Pressler, refugee from Nazism, performs at the Berlin Philharmonic
6 February 2014
In January, an audience of thousands experienced a moving event: a slight, 90-year-old man sat nimbly at the piano in a Berlin concert hall and played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major (1784). During his performance, he was visibly cheerful, communicated with the orchestra, particularly with the wind section, and spoke through Mozart’s music to the audience—urging the listener to enjoy every trill.
The pianist was Menahem Pressler, born Max Jacob Pressler in 1923 in Magdeburg, Germany. Seventy-five years ago, in 1939, he and his family were barely able to flee the Nazi terror against the Jewish population.
His family’s clothing store was ransacked and destroyed on November 9, 1938, during the Nazi’s Kristallnacht pogroms, and Max Jacob was expelled from high school. He continued to take piano lessons in secret. His uncles, aunts and grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz. His family, via Italy, fled to Palestine and thereafter to the US.
When he was 17, Max Jacob adopted the name Menahem (Hebrew for comfort or solace). He studied piano under fellow émigrés Leo Kestenberg and Eliahu Rudiakov, among others. In the US, he founded the renowned Beaux Arts Trio in 1955, an ensemble in which he performed internationally, including in Germany, until its dissolution in 2008.
After 73 years, on September 27, 2012, Menahem Pressler’s German citizenship was restored. At the ceremony in Berlin, he said that Germany had remained his cultural home throughout. He had always spoken German at home with his family, had read Goethe and Heine and played Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart on the piano. “I can understand those who could not face all that after Auschwitz,” said Pressler, “but for me, there has always been this land of culture that I clung on to.”
Pressler’s three concerts January 10-12 were his first performances with the Berlin Philharmonic, the elite orchestra that performed for the Nazi dictatorship up until 1945. One had the impression that both he and his audience realised this concert was a historic occasion.
The applause after Pressler’s performance was thunderous, and many in the audience rose to their feet to show the musician their appreciation and respect. During the latter’s encore, Chopin’s Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor (1830)—gentle, full of feeling, but with no melodramatic exaggeration—there was silence in the room, no one coughed.
Mozart was 28 years old when he composed his Piano Concerto No. 17. Written for his pupil Barbara Ployer, it was the last of four piano concertos that Mozart produced in the early part of that year.
In the concerto, Mozart allowed the pianist to perform on an almost equal footing with the other instruments, rather than in the usual manner as a soloist accompanied by an orchestra. The desire for new timbre and for unorthodox and surprising moments is exemplified in the development section when Mozart moves through no fewer than 13 different keys. Minor-key episodes suddenly enter the andante section and, in contrast to the conventions of a classical concerto-sonata movement, the piano is granted a third theme of its own. Mozart features an almost chamber music-like dialogue between piano and winds or strings.
Shostakovich’s “The year 1905”
The second half of the Berlin Philharmonic concert featured Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, subtitled “The Year 1905.” The symphony attempts to find musical expression for the events of the 1905 Russian Revolution, including “Bloody Sunday” (January 22, 1905) in St. Petersburg, when the troops of Tsar Nicolas II shot down an unarmed demonstration of workers and their families.
Again, at the conclusion of the piece, there was great applause from the audience, who rightly celebrated the remarkable musical efforts of the orchestra and its guest conductor, Semyon Bychkov from St. Petersburg.
Nonetheless, this interpretation did not have the same emotional impact as Pressler’s Mozart concerto. One could sense a certain distance between the orchestra, the conductor and the significance of the Russian revolution. As a result, in spite of the technical precision, the soul of the music was missing.
Shostakovich composed his Eleventh Symphony in 1957, and the piece received its first performance during the 40th anniversary celebrations of the October Revolution in Moscow. …
The four movements of the Eleventh Symphony depict four moments or scenes from January 22, 1905 (January 9 in the old Russian calendar): “Palace Square,” “The 9th of January,” “Eternal Memory” and “Tocsin.”
The movements are performed without a break, so that the symphony develops a remarkable dynamic.
In the opening, the strings evoke the repressive atmosphere of the tsarist regime, accompanied occasionally by flutes, distant brass and drumbeats—all in all, an unsettling atmosphere. The first theme, based on the hymn “Lord have mercy on us,” points to the religious illusions of the people. A second theme takes up a song of Siberian forced labourers, and a third, a song from the 1860s entitled “Prisoner.” In the second movement, the attack by the tsarist guards is initiated by a fugue and salvos of percussion.
Shostakovich also uses many famous themes in the following movements; for example, the popular revolutionary song “You fell as victims” appears in the third movement as the funeral march for the dead. This song was also sung at Lenin’s funeral in 1924. Among the march-like rhythms in the final movement, quiet and reflective tones join in again—the victims should not be forgotten. In his music, Shostakovich always remembered the victims of the Stalinist terror, who included many of his friends.
In certain ways, the Eleventh Symphony draws on the Seventh, the famed Leningrad Symphony. As with that symphony, the Eleventh was dismissed as mere propaganda music by many Western critics at the time and, as a result, was rarely performed.
In the Berlin concert programme notes, Susanne Stähr opposes the charge of propaganda. She notes that Shostakovich had in principle sympathised with the original ideas of the revolution, which were perverted by Stalinism. At the same time, like many other critics, she attempts to uncover the failure of these revolutionary ideas in the Symphony No. 11.
This is the problem with the Berlin performance. Although the orchestra’s playing was technically superb, the passion of the revolution, with all its heroism, self-sacrifice and tragedy, hardly finds musical expression. As a result, the contrasts between quiet and reflective sections, on the one hand, and the booming, martial portions sometimes seem too stiff—brilliant, but without inner connection or a deeper understanding.
In comparison, the author would like to suggest a performance by the Leningrad Philharmonic under the direction of Yevgeny Mravinsky. In a recording of a 1959 concert, a different tone can be detected—a tone that suggests participation in the revolutionary upsurge and defeats in the Soviet Union, which so moved Shostakovich himself.
A brief sample of the Berlin concert is available here.
This video is called German militarism before World War I.
By Ulrich Rippert in Germany:
6 February 2014
The announcement by the new grand coalition government in Germany that the country’s previous policy of military restraint is at an end marks a historic turning point. It heralds a new stage of aggressive imperialist foreign policy.
For the first time since the end of World War II and the monstrous crimes of the Nazi dictatorship, Berlin’s leading politicians have clearly stated that Germany will in the future intervene in crisis areas and global hot spots more strongly and independently than before, including by military means. The days when Germany was obliged to practice military abstinence are finally over, they insist.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democratic Party—SPD) first announced the new policy last week in the Bundestag (parliament). He said Germany was “too big and too important” to confine itself any longer “to commenting on world politics from the sidelines.”
Due to its economic power and geographical location in the centre of Europe, Germany bore a special responsibility in regard to world affairs, Steinmeier declared, adding, “We recognise our responsibility.” Germany would serve as a catalyst for a common European foreign and security policy, he said, and while the use of military force was only a last resort, it could not be ruled out.
This change of course is supported by the entire government. Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Christian Democratic Union—CDU) said Germany would take on “more responsibility in NATO and other alliances” and announced a significant expansion of foreign missions by the Bundeswehr (armed forces). Von der Leyen added that she had begun to work with Steinmeier and Development Minister Gerd Müller (Christian Social Union—CSU) to develop a “strategy for Africa.”
At the Munich Security Conference last weekend, German President Joachim Gauck bluntly called for the strengthening of German military power. In a demagogic speech, he described the previous policy of military restraint as moral cowardice and freeloading.
Germany had finally to live up to its international responsibilities and change from “a beneficiary to a guarantor of international security and order,” Gauck demanded. Employing a repulsive mixture of pastoral blather and war propaganda, the former East German clergyman preached militarism in the name of humanity.
He warned that “from restraint, something like self-privilege arises” and called for a clear commitment to NATO, “even if the United States cannot always afford more.” It should, he said, be natural for Germany to intervene militarily “if human rights violations culminate in genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity.”
This “humanitarian” war propaganda is being repeated in leading newspapers and promoted by all TV channels. Die Welt praised Gauck’s speech as a milestone, marking a rhetorical break with German “Ohnemicheltum” (not with me). The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung spoke of a “brilliant speech by the president” that will reverberate for a long time because it initiates a “farewell to post-war German self-diminution in foreign and security policy.” The Süddeutsche Zeitung praised Gauck as a warning voice against the “defensive comfort” of Germany.
This united front of the media makes clear the level of corruption in the editorial offices and reveals the thoroughgoing integration of the press into the imperialist offensive of Germany’s political elite.
There is literally no one in official politics or the media who characterizes Germany’s foreign policy reversal for what it is. Barely 70 years after the collapse of the Third Reich and 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, German imperialism is once again revealing its historical roots. It is pushing into Eastern Europe and the territories of the former Soviet Union, and reconnecting with its old colonial policy in Africa.
The events in Ukraine expose the propaganda lie that its foreign policy offensive serves the interests of democracy and freedom. The Berlin government is working with an opposition movement whose leaders include Oleh Tyahnybok of the neo-fascist All-Ukrainian Union, or “Svoboda.”
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Berlin has sought to remove Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence and bring it into its own. It wants to transform Ukraine into a low-cost platform for German and European corporations and simultaneously increase pressure on the Russian government.
The return of German imperialism and militarism to the world stage is not limited to foreign policy. It is also directed inwards, against the vast majority of the working population who reject a policy of war and expanded foreign military missions, for which they are forced to pay the costs.
For this reason, the foreign policy shift that had long been planned did not feature in last year’s general election campaign. It was prepared behind the backs of the people. Despite endless TV debates and election meetings, the real plans were concealed from the population in a veritable political conspiracy.
It is no coincidence that the Social Democratic Party has taken the initiative for the foreign policy turn in the grand coalition. More than any other party, it is closely connected with the state apparatus and places state interests above party interests.
Fifteen years ago, it was the Social Democrats, then in a coalition with the Greens, who championed a Bundeswehr combat mission outside the NATO treaty area and ushered in the transformation of the conscription-based Bundeswehr into a professional army. The military offensive was bound up with the social attacks embodied in the government’s Agenda 2010.
And so it is today. Alongside the expansion of Germany’s military capacity, the government is planning an Agenda 2020 that will go far beyond the current social cuts.
… The Greens, who govern in the state of Hesse with the CDU and are currently negotiating a drastic austerity programme, have already signalled their support to the federal government. At the Bundestag sitting at which Foreign Minister Steinmeier proclaimed the end of military restraint, the Green Party parliamentary group voted in favour of extending the mandate of 400 German soldiers and two units of the Patriot air defence system in Turkey.
The working class must treat very seriously the return of German imperialism and militarism. The past century saw two world wars, fascist dictatorship and the Holocaust. To prevent another such catastrophe, the struggle against war must be combined with the fight against unemployment and cuts in social spending and be carried out on the basis of an international socialist programme.
A comment on this article, by “gooddoctor:
6 hours ago
What makes it so scary for me is that a decade before the Holocaust that my parents generation suffered, there were very close links between Germany under Hitler and a great many fascist movements in Eastern Europe including the Ukraine which, as you note, was scheduled for another chapter of Hitler’s extermination/settlement building program. It was a tiny party, the Arrow Cross, which was put in charge of the Hungarian government in 1944 and its Holocaust project. I suffered terrific abuse in refugee camp after the 1956 revolution in Hungary from the types drawn to fascism and know them well. It matters not at all that at the moment the Ukrainian fascist want to join the Common Market while their European associates oppose it.