THE FAMILY FIAT PHOTOGRAPHED CRUISING AT THE NORMAL AUTOBAHN RATE OF 96 MPH
Homes in Germany have more doors than windows. The only thing there is more of than doors is rules. To go from the kitchen to the dining room in my hosts home there are two doors that must be opened and closed on the way. And there are three thick doors to negotiate to get from the bedroom to the bathroom. Excuse me, I should say to the toilette. In most cases I make it through all of them in time. There must be another rule against door knobs; there isn’t a knob to be seen anywhere. They all have large sturdy handles so you can open them with your elbow when your hands are full.
There is no toilet in the bathroom. If you need a toilet, that’s a different door. Once inside, you may see a little graphic sign there that tells a man that “Stehen ist verboten!” A man’s aim is not trusted in some homes in this country; he must sit the way the ladies do. And if serious business has been completed the product will neither sink nor float in the bowl. It sits high and dry on a little shelf until you push the button to whisk it away. But don’t look for a handle to flush. All the handles are on the doors. Look for two buttons that may be that may be somewhere on the wall. Intuition will tell you whether pushing the small button or the large one is the most appropriate.
If your bedroom is on the second floor it probably has a door to the outside and nice little balcony. If you want a little air in the room just lean the whole door into the room. It can be tipped in as though the hinges were along the bottom instead of on the side. It doesn’t take long to figure out how to manipulate the handle to accomplish that. Most any Americans learn to do it in less than ten minutes. Then it’s a fun thing to do.
Now about those rules, our hosts went out to buy a variety of breads and pretzels to go with the liverwurst and baloney slices for breakfast. They came back empty handed. The shopkeepers who sell bread are not allowed to be open on Sunday, but gas stations are, and some of them sell bread. However it turned out there is yet a new rule that gas stations are only allowed to sell bread on Sunday to people who are from out of town and can confirm that by driving in with a car that has an out of town license plate. The German people are proud of their rules but still complain when a new one like this comes along. Angela Merkel got the blame for our stale bread and shortage of enough breakfast pretzels to go around. She is out of favor in this household.
After nearly two weeks on this trip to Germany it is time to go back home to the land of a few flimsy bedroom doors and wide open lawlessness, especially on Sundays; home to America where a liter of beer costs more than a cup of coffee, if you can imagine that. I will miss the pristine beauty of Bavaria where there are no paper cups littering the roads because there are no paper cups. There is more I will be sorry to leave behind, but a helping of fried eggs and bacon or even a donut beats still beats liverwurst and pretzels for breakfast anytime.
THE PARTHENON, 2 MILES and 26 CENTURIES AWAY
Right across the street from the Parliament building in Athens there stands an outdoor café. Many times I have sat and sipped Ouzos at that cafe watching the changing of the guard as one stoic protector of the palace replaced another. They strut and stomp across the plaza then placidate themselves in front of those little wooden houses that look like they belong more in cartoons rather than standing as bastions of government. There are two guards. Each carries an unarmed rifle. They don’t protect anything of course; it’s a show, a demonstration of sorts.
I wonder where they are now. Today the demonstrations are in the same place but they are of a different kind. There are fires on the plaza. Did they burn those silly little guard houses, I wonder. I do know, however, that the protesters burned the German flag. They didn’t burn the German flag because Germany contributed more funds than any other European nation to help Greece out. They burned the flag because Germany stopped. Feed a hungry bear and he will lick your hand. Stop and he will bite it off.
The root problem in Greece is not financial; it is cultural. If the Soviet Union was the triumph of Communism, then Greece is the triumph of Socialism. The country has a history of economic distress. In 1922 the government decreed that 50% of all privately held money in banks had to be given to the government. The national treasury gave bonds in exchange, to be repaid on 20 years with a nominal interest rate of 6 ½ %. Neither interest nor principle were ever paid. The people bailed the country out, involuntarily. It happened again in 1926, four years later another bailout. In 1932 the country declared a moratorium on their international debt. Bailed out again, this time by the international community, again involuntarily.
Should the world do it again? For humanitarian reasons, perhaps we must, but for how long and how much. Philanthropy overdone eventually becomes license for continued misbehavior. It is Europe’s problem and Europe is doing its best to solve it. Germany enjoys the largest and strongest economy in Europe so the cross falls primarily on the German people to bear. We empathize. We have been there.
The magazines and newspapers in Europe are filled with stories pronouncing the end of capitalism. They hold globalization and the free market system responsible for the financial crisis that has beset them. It is greed in the private sector that threatens the continuation of the welfare state, they say. There is no thought that it may be greed that drives the protesters who want to be carried by someone else’s life savings rather than work a little bit longer and create a little bit of wealth of their own.
To those who say capitalism is the cause, I have a few questions to ask. When you retired from your government job at age 55 with a pension large enough to live on, where did the money to pay you come from? With the free medical care you have enjoyed for most of your life, where did that money come from? With free public education for your children and heavily subsidized university tuitions, where did that money come from? Do you know? Do you care?
Your government didn’t create it. It was generated by the capitalist system you seek to end. If you are successful what is your plan for a better system that will generate greater wealth, enough to continue and sustain and the benefits you have been enjoying and refuse to sacrifice?
The most absurd claims are the claims you read in the Greek papers, claims that Germany is to blame for the bankruptcy of Greece. By that reasoning, I could buy a yacht for myself and blame you, dear reader, if the yacht is taken away from me because you wouldn’t pay for it. Now that’s greed.
Nancy Pelosi fears investigations. I can understand that. The Hill reports that in a fund raising letter,
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is asking supporters for contributions to help prevent the “subpoenas and investigations” that would result from a GOP majority.
After her promise to “drain the swamp” she has reason to fear oversight will show the swamp has turned into a cesspool under her leadership. The Tea Party is Patriotic, not Nationalistic. According to George Orwell, Nationalism is the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than to advance its interests. Patriotism is devotion to a particular way of life which one believes is the best in the world but with no wish to force it upon other people. Patriotism is by its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. Soros and Obama have joined in urging Germany to increase their spending as a means to stimulate economic recovery and support EU nations with greater levels of debt. What they are calling for is what Random Thots calls International Socialism. It would tap the wealth of one nation that has acted responsibly in order to benefit other nations whose irresponsible spending led to the problem in the first place. Soros and Obama are urging a policy that would increase the debt of the EU’s strongest member and support the continuation of the policies that are leading other nations to bankruptcy.