Friday, June 24, 2016

And now for something completely different: The United Kingdom commits economic suicide


By Patrick

It is difficult to find the right words today, but I will try. If you are being misled by very foolish people, you will get very foolish results, Here at Politicalgates, I have often written about the power of propaganda, and now we can witness the power of propaganda first hand - again.

There was rarely a country which needed the European Union more than the United Kingdom. The wealth of the United Kingdom results mainly from a large financial industry which is part of the large service sector, in combination with oil reserves in Scotland. The service sector provides about 78% of the GDP of the United Kingdom. It is huuuuuuuge.

Ever since Margaret Thatcher decided to kill the UK industry and made the switch to an economy which is based on the service sector, the UK economy desperately needed open markets and foreign labour. It was also helpful that the bankers in London could develop lots of fancy financial instruments, and only had to fear the milder UK banking regulations - but with the possibility to sell all these fancy financial instruments afterwards within the European Union.

There would be much to say about all this, but this catastrophic "Brexit"-vote showed that in Britain arguments do not matter too much, when nationalist emotions are so much more appealing. We want to be free! We want to be independent! No immigrants! FREEDOM!

Also: "SAVE THE NHS!" The NHS is the "National Health Service" of the UK, a cherished institution, because it provides "free" healthcare for the young and old, the rich and the poor. Of course it is not "free", but paid by taxes. Anyway, despite the fact that American right-wingers try to tell you that universal healthcare is an invention of the devil, the British actually love their NHS.

So what the heck has the NHS to do with the European Union or the Brexit? Actually, I was asking this question myself just a few weeks ago when I saw footage of "Leave"-campaigners with NHS-signs, just like in this photo:




"Save our NHS" - sure, yes, but what has this to do with the "Brexit"...?

Only today I realized the connection. Of course, it was just propaganda, made by pretty evil people for pretty naive people.

The "Vote Leave" campaign seriously argued that leaving the European Union would "save the NHS", and the tabloids, who were complicit in spreading the "Leave"-propaganda, happily jumped on the bandwagon:


Yes, who likes "freeloading health tourists"...! Nobody! Get the hell out, you freeloaders, we are leaving! Don't come back!

Also, the "Leave-campaign" seriously argued that 350 million pounds each week could be spent on the NHS, if the money does not have to be handed over to the European Union. See the following clip with a statement by Gisela Stuart, who was the chair of the official "Vote Leave" campaign. FUN FACT: She was actually German and immigrated to Britain in 1974!




Well, first of all, the sum of "350 million pounds every week" is complete bollocks. Unfortunately, I found the correct information only in the German version of the German news magazine "Der Spiegel"  - translation:

The British government does not send 350 million pounds to Brussels every week. Thanks to the special status, that was negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, this weekly payment is reduced to 250 million pounds. If you then deduct the billions, which are flowing each year from the EU to the island, there remain only 110 million pounds which constitute the British "net payment" every week.

For this "net payment", the UK receives: Three millions of people from the EU which live in the UK, who spend a lot of money there and who pay taxes. The UK also receives free access to the European markets, and much more.

Boris Johnson, the former London Mayor and prominent "Leave"-campaigner, who appears to be rather "Trumpian" these days, loved to present himself in front of a big red bus displaying the message that 350 million pounds could be spent on the NHS every week, instead on the EU:





See also this clip with Boris Johnson, published two days ago - Quote: "350 million pounds per week is a very eye-catching figure":




It was all a joke, of course. Right-wing populists like Boris Johnson, as well as "UKIP"-leader Nigel Farage love propaganda. They don't like facts, and they also have no hesitation to walk back their "promises". This should be a lesson for US voters as well, who have the choice this year to elect snake-oil-salesman Donald Trump.

Nigel Farage today explained on British TV that this great "promise" to spend 350 million pounds on the NHS, a promise which certainly appealed to many voters, should not be taken seriously,




What were the other promises? Oh yes, immigration. The "immigrants", the "freeloaders"...for years, this has been a favorite topic of the UK tabloids:


The advantage of immigration? Don't know...it's all so complicated, isn't it. Far too complicated for the common voter, that's for sure.

In a democracy, there are politicans who are elected and who are able to deal with problems. It seems that the UK politicans were not able to solve the problems of the country, and as a result, the majority of the voters pulled the emergency break.This will now cause serious problems for years, and many people as well as businesses will suffer.

On the internet I found a very good report about the possible consequences of the "Brexit", published in June 2015 by UK experts. In typical British understatement, they outline the possible disastrous consequences of the "Brexit." There was perhaps too much understatement in these type of studies. They simply could not compete with the gripping tabloid headlines about the nasty immigrants...

Examples from this study:


"Some business would be likely move to Eurozone financial centres or be lost to Europe".

Yes, this is very likely indeed. While it is true that London would probably still be a large financial center, new reports estimate that the banking sector could lose about 40,000 jobs, mostly to Europe.

Quote:

Other banks have been more upfront in saying that it would have at least some of their staff exit London. Last week, Morgan Stanley said it would relocate as many as 1,000 workers if the U.K. was to leave the EU. J.P. Morgan Chase, prior to the vote, said it was likely to move 4,000 employees out of Europe. But on Friday morning after the vote, Dimon said JPMorgan was committed to keep a large staff in London. Still he said J.P. Morgan is likely to move at least 1,000 people out of London.

“For the moment, we will continue to serve our clients as usual, and our operating model in the U.K. remains the same, Dimon said in a memo to staff obtained by Business Insider. “In the months ahead, however, we may need to make changes to our European legal entity structure and the location of some roles.”

The following excerpt from the study also does not sound fantastic:


In addition;


"The majority of published studies find the impact on the UK would be negative and significant."

That's why you need experts who are in charge, and why you should not gamble your country away...

The funny thing is that I myself should not be sad, because it is very likely that Frankfurt will profit immensely from the developments. Frankfurt is the ideal location for the financial institutions, it is already the leading financial center on the continent and has the necessary infrastructure. It also provides much more comfortable living conditions than London.


.

However, I am very sad indeed. Many British citizens will suffer as a result of foolish policies and foolish politicians.

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UPDATE:

Yes, this happens when you manipulate the voters:



EDIT: The deleted video is still available HERE.

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 UPDATE 2: 

John Oliver about the Brexit - and the Brexit-campaign, simply brilliant as usual:



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UPDATE 3:

The UK "Independent" newspaper published a clip in which snake-oil-salesman Nigel Farage throws around the "10 billion per year to the EU" claim and says that he wants this money to be spent on hospitals and schools. 

Of course, none of this money will ever be spent on hospitals and schools, this was all just cheap propaganda. In order to gain access the EU market, the UK will have to spent virtually the same amount, just a Norway is doing now (the EEA contribution) - and will at the same time have no say in any of the measures adopted within the EEA.

Also, the UK will most certainly have a considerable loss in taxes due to the economic turmoil and loss of jobs that the "Brexit" will cause, so there won't be more money to spend. 

If you put yourself in the hands of foolish and insincere people, you will get fooled.

It is a huge tragedy that the British have been subjected to decades of anti-EU propaganda, but nobody ever seems to have properly explained to them the great advantages and benefits of being an EU-member.



Monday, June 13, 2016

The Gun Trap


By Patrick

I cannot even count how many times we have been shocked and saddened by horrific mass shootings in the USA during the previous years. At the same time, nothing has happened to prevent these massacres.

Many, if not most of the US citizens have easy access to high powered, military grade weapons. Sometimes there are "background checks." However, they are not strict enough, they cannot prevent massacres, they do not work:


The truth is that politicians from all sides have failed the US citizens. Unfortunately, it is not just the Republicans who are to blame for the current situation. This might be an unconvenient and unpopular truth, but in my opinion, it is still the truth.

The "Daily Show" brutally exposed in 2013 the unwillingness of the Democrats to seriously push for effective gun control, The Democratic strategists concluded (correctly) that some voters might not like it. I included the three video clips of this brilliant "Daily Show" segment in my "Happy New Year" post for the year 2015. This "Daily Show" report was hitting a mark, and never before or afterwards have I seen a better summary of this terrible disease the plagues America: The USA is caught in the "gun trap" - and there seems to be no way out.

It is not just the assault rifles which are the problem. Even small handguns like the very popular and modern "Glock" pistols are so high-powered that it is easy to kill many people within a few seconds.

There is also another inconvenient truth: If the "good guys" are allowed to own the guns, then the bad guys will have them as well. In addition, sometimes the distinction between a "good guy" and a "bad guy" is almost impossible. The Orlando killer Omar Mateen had a security and a firearm license, and therefore by definition was a "good guy."

Gun control can only work if the policies are very strict, like it is the case in Europe, or for example in Australia after the big change 20 years ago:


Quote:

The chances of being murdered by a gun in Australia plunged to 0.15 per 100,000 people in 2014 from 0.54 per 100,000 people in 1996, a decline of 72 percent, a Reuters analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed.

In 1996, Australia had 311 murders, of which 98 were with guns. In 2014, with the population up from about 18 million to 23 million, Australia had 238 murders, of which 35 were with guns.

It was the April 28, 1996, shooting deaths by a lone gunman of 35 people in and around a cafe at a historic former prison colony in Tasmania that prompted the government to buy back or confiscate a million firearms and make it harder to buy new ones.

The country has had no mass shootings since.

The figures directly contradict assertions of most leading U.S. presidential candidates who have either questioned the need to toughen gun laws or directly denounced Australia's laws as dangerous.

See also the three brilliant "Daily Show" clips I mentioned above regarding the situation in Australia.

The concept that one has to fight gun violence with even more guns is simply insane, and nobody outside the USA seriously promotes this theory. However, in the USA, in the year 2016, the grass is blue and the sky is green. Not always, but far too often. The lack of effective gun control is a collective failure.

Here in Europe, we have pretty effective gun control in place, which makes the life of the Europeans so much safer, and so much better. Usually, it is almost impossible to buy guns. You need special licences, but in contrast to the situation in the USA, the rules are actually extremely strict. Only very few people receive such kind of licences.

Yes, Europe just recently had massive terror attacks with guns as well, in Paris. Does this mean that gun control does not work? No, of course not. There is one major difference to the situation in the USA: In Europe, the "bad guys" cannot just walk into a shop and buy a gun. They need to go to extreme measures to get hold of guns, and this makes a huge difference. This is a very effective way for example to prevent the "lone wolf" attacks which plagued the USA for so many years.

How do the terrorists in Europe get their guns? The answer might be surprising: The weapons need to be smuggled from Eastern Europe - because the cannot be bought in Western Europe.


Quote:

France outlaws most gun ownership and it’s almost impossible to legally acquire a high-powered rifle such as an AK-47, so where did the weapons in the Nov. 13 terror attack—not to mention the bloody January assault by Islamic terrorists on the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine and the 2012 shootings by a militant in Toulouse—come from?

The answer: Eastern Europe, most likely, where the trafficking of deadly small arms is big, shady business. And where local authorities find it difficult to intervene.

The French government and the European Union know they have a foreign gun problem. But as the chain of attacks illustrates, efforts to tamp down on the flow of weapons have, so far, failed to disarm terrorists.

French police reportedly seized more than 1,500 illegal weapons in 2009 and no fewer than 2,700 in 2010. The number of illegal guns in France has swollen by double-digit percentages annually for several years, Al Jazeera reported, citing figures from Paris-based National Observatory for Delinquency.

This is a really important difference: The weapons need to be smuggled. Every potential "lone wolf" attacker will have great difficulties to obtain a weapon in Europe. You will most likely need an organization for the smuggling, and the effort has to be huge. This gives law enforcement much more possibilites to intervene and prevent possible attacks. If an IS supporter in France or Belgium could simply walk into a shop and buy a gun, without any checks or permits, the work of the police would be so much harder - and the threat for the general population would be so much greater.

But this is exactly the case in the USA. In Florida, for example, you do not need a licence to buy or own a handgun. You also do not need to be registered. There are virtually no restrictions in regards to obtaining a gun, as far as I understand. From an European point of view, this sounds totally insane.

Looking at the numbers of guns in the USA ("More guns than people"), the situation seems almost hopeless:


Of course it should not be hopeless. A major, combined political effort could of course eliminate the threat, although this would be very unpopular with large parts of the US population.

But such a combined effort won't happen. Many more people in the USA are condemned to die through the hands of heavily armed psychopaths. The USA is trapped, just like the poor victims were trapped in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on Sunday morning. There will be no solution, unless the grass is green and the sky is blue. I am not holding my breath.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A little church in Germany - Open Post


By Patrick

Dear readers, I decided to write another post with photos and interesting information from good old Germany. Of course, I could write again about Donald and the funny bunch, or about Bristol and Dakota (may they live in happiness forever), but seriously, you are following the news just like I am, and is there really much more to say at this point about Donny "small hands" Trump? Probably not.

There is also not much to report about other issues which might move the USA, like the gun problem (still unresolved, and nobody does anything about it), a health care system which can still bring seriously ill patients to the brink of bankruptcy, (still unresolved), a political system which strongly favours corrupt politicians (still unresolved), and so on. I really don't want to be sound arrogant, and I would like to stress again that every country has problems. However, it is the seriousness and magnitude of the individual problems which can be very different indeed.

Anyway, Donald Trump is taking a serious "dip" in the polls, so I would say that we can pretty much forget about him at this point. Hillary has won the nomination, as God intended (LOL), and it seems highly unlikely at this point that Donald Trump has a real chance to win the general election. Especially after the major brawl which I expect will happen at the GOP convention!

So I would like to present to you photos and information about a little church in Germany. What, a little church in Germany??? Yes, the church is tiny indeed, however, there is no other church like this in Germany, and I presume that it will be very difficult to find a similar church in the whole of Europe.

The old world is of course full of ancient history, and quite often, you can do real "time travels" over here in Europe. However, you do not necessarily need go to Rome or Venice in order to experience ancient history. You can do a little "time travel" in Germany sometimes as well.

During our travels through Germany, Kathleen and I visited Idensen, a tiny village close to Hanover in Northern Germany. This village also has this tiny church pictured above. The church is called the "Sigwardskirche." But it is much more than just a tiny church!

In the 12th century, the Bishop of Minden, called Sigward, decided to build himself a private church, which was also designed to be his burial church. In execution of this plan, the Sigwardskirche in Idensen was being erected, from 1129 - 1134. This is of course nearly 900 years ago, and there are not many churches from these days which did survive unscathed, either due to destruction, or due to major changes during the next centuries.

However, in Idensen, a little miracle happened:

Not only did the structure of this church, built in the classic romanic style, survive with virtually no changes. This in itself would probably not worth a post, however, there is something else: By pure coincidence it was discovered in 1858 that the original medieval paintings were hidden until a thick layer of white paint, which was applied around the year 1500. A significant part of these original paintings from around 1130 could be recovered, and this provides us with an unique and totally enchanting example of a "very special" medieval church which has been preserved beautifully. Visiting this church is a terrific experience, as the beauty of the paintings, as well as the small building itself, is simply stunning.

The walls are filled with paintings of biblical scenes, and while not everything could be recovered, there are still enough pieces left to give the visitor a very good impression of what the church originally looked like around 1130.

The fact that these paintings survived is a miracle indeed. Just as an example: One of the most famous examples of medieval architecture in Germany is the Palatine Chapel in Aachen, built from 792-805. While the Palatine Chapel is even older than the Sigwardskirche, the original interior did not survive: Originally, the Palatine Chapel was also decorated with frescos, however, these have been long long replaced by mosaics and stuccos (in fact, several times). The Sigwardskirche in Idensen appears like a little "time capsule" in comparison with the original frescos still partially preserved.

Link to the website of the church which also has an English page.

Click on the right pcitures to enlarge (I recommend a right mouse click and "open in new tab"):

















The original door of the church from around 1130 has also been preserved and is now kept inside:



The stone staircase to the private chapel of the Bishop - you can see that these steps have been used since almost 900 years:



The private chapel upstairs- on the right there is a classic feature of medieval romanic architecture, the so-called "rose window", which represents the four evangelists, with Jesus Christ in the middle (see here for more details about these windows):




View from the private chapel into the church:



Bonus - Gravestone of an aristocratic couple from 1576:




Another view from the outside:



I hope you enjoyed that!

Have a nice weekend, everybody!

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UPDATE:

I found a very good new German TV-report about the church, it's well worth watching, despite of the German language:


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Holiday in Berlin - A visit to the Stasi, and other things - Open Post

Tonight we have a beautiful warm evening in Berlin

By Patrick

I know that you have all waited quite a long time again for new post, so I apologize, but Kathleen and I are pretty busy these days, and right now, we are spending a few days in Berlin. This is a city full of history, and of course I would like like to share some historical lessons, because we are here to educate ourselves, aren't we!

Berlin is unique in the way that it has seen several dictatorships in its relatively short life as a capital, and this time I wanted to grant me a wish and visit the "Stasi-Museum", where I have never been before. However, this is not just a normal "museum", but also a display of the original Stasi headquarter, the house where the reviled Stasi-Minister Erich Mielke, the most sinister man of the "German Democratic Republic", worked for several decades. So you are not just visiting a museum, but also the preserved "heart" of the communist dictatorship which existed in East-Germany until 1989.

The Stasi ("Ministry for State Security") was one of the largest instruments of oppression that was ever created in human history - please see the Wikipedia-page for more details.  It was a "state within the state", and its members enjoyed many privileges.

In a country with only 17 million citizens, several hundreds of thousands of people worked for the Stasi at the same time, officially and unofficially. It was a huge and thoroughly evil bureaucratic machine which relentlessly persecuted virtually every citizen who displayed smaller or larger signs of of dissent or discontent.

From the outside, this building within the massive, super-secret former Stasi "district" in East Berlin does not look like much (click on photos to enlarge)...



...but from the rather "grand" entrance hall we already get the impression that something bigger was going on here:




In fact, this was the headquarter of Stalin's huge fan Erich Mielke...





...who was the head of State Security in the GDR from 1957 onwards, until he was finally toppled only much, much later, in 1989.

He was probably the most hated man in Germany in the 20th century after Adolf Hitler, however, in contrast to the "Führer", Erich Mielke's office has been preserved in its original state:






Including Erich Mielke's private rooms for work and relaxation, which were next door:







So what else was there...? Well, quite a number of other rooms of former staff members, and lots of information and exhibits about the history of the Stasi. The following sleection should give you an idea:




Donald Trump could have written that - but this is from a speech by Erich Mielke:



Lots of various gifts to the leaders of the Stasi:



Lots of information about the comprehensive Stasi-surveillance (they also opened every letter and parcel from East and West and vice versa):








Possible troublemakers were carefully photographed:



"Odour samples" of enemies - Mielke's world, nothing was impossible:




Some of top members ("officers") of the Stasi:



"This should be your way to us" - teenagers were asked to voice their interest already in 7th grade, in order to join the secret ranks and to be an obedient servant without a conscience, while living privileged life:



On display were some examples of the (customary) handwritten statements of ordinary citizens, declaring that from now on they were willing to work for the Stasi as secret informants ("unofficial collaborateurs"):



There was much, much more, but we just don't have enough space.

Finally, something funny. The women's toilet in the casino was removed - due to lack of women in the leading ranks of the Stasi:



There is so much more to see in Berlin...so much more history as well.

In the evening, we walked past the Holocaust memorial near the Brandenburg Gate, a reminder of the "other" former dictatorship:



The new US embassay, just next to Brandenburg Gate, and then the most famous German symbol itself:




So what else happened?

Oh yes, Donald Trump still wants to become the dictator of the world.

He also wants to build a yuuuuge wall which apparently closely resembles the former East-German border to West-Germany. This old German wall was guarded by....well, take a guess....of course, the Stasi!

However, Erich Mielke lost, and so will Donald Trump, because finally such walls will be torn down for good.

FINALLY:

On Thursday, Hillary Clinton gave a terrific speech and totally destroyed Donald Trump:




May "Don the Con" go down with Erich Mielke's famous "last words":

"But I love you all!"

That would be epic indeed!

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BONUS:

I almost forgot - Kathleen and I went to a great concert in Berlin on Friday and saw the amazing English band "Muse" - together with about 15.000 other people! We had dreamt about seeing Muse live for a long time, and it was a truly terriffic show!



In their most famous song, they ask:

"How can we win, when fools can be King"

Easy! We just kick their fat butts!

Have a great weekend, everyone!