Thursday, October 24, 2013

Berlin 2013 Day 3: My Oh My, Are the Germans PISSED!

It is 1123PM and I'm just getting back to the room after dinner.  We had a long day of deliberations in the conference (very good stuff), I got a good workout in, and then straight to dinner. 
Your humble blogger, being introduced before his presentation

While on the elliptical, I was continuing to watch my Open Yale course on financial markets, but I could see the TV coverage on the evening was all about the story of the NSA tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel's telephone.  Virtually nothing else was being talked about.  I thought to myself, that this cannot be good news for anyone.

At dinner, our speaker was a German member of the European Parliament, highly placed in the foreign affairs ministry.  He started out his remarks making some very pointed and not so happy comments about the state of things at the highest levels of the German and U.S. governments.  It was a very serious and solemn moment.  I looked around at the other Americans in the room, and I sensed that we were all feeling the same thing--a little bit ashamed, and a little bit angry ourselves.  Angry that Edward Snowden ever existed.  Anger about those who defend him as anything but a traitor. Anger that our country is embarrassed; again.  Honestly though, I also couldn't get past the feeling that "well, that's your savior, Europe.  He criticized Bush for all these out of line wiretaps and excesses from the Patriot Act, and all he did was make it worse--we don't trust him any more than you do."

I've had a lot of opportunity to talk about America with old friends and new while here.  It started yesterday when I made the point to Jannis (Sebastian's friend) that his view of events and dysfunction in American might be a little bit skewed by the media he reads.  I spent time telling these guys that to understand American, you have to understand our founding.  Our country was founded in a conservative revolution.  Our Constitution is a conservative document which LIMITS the power of the state, something that I simply don't think Europeans can get their heads around.  I assured them that the fight over Obamacare was far more than just a power grab by the party out of power--that there were HUGE, EXISTENTIAL issues at sake.  I reminded them that they had mandated health insurance in Germany, something they've had for decades.  I postulated that when their system was formed, there was very little bitching from the public about mandated insurance simply because there is an inherent TRUST in the state that Americans don't have--a legacy of our founding.  I explained to Jannis and Sebastian that there is a huge chunk of American that shakes its head and says, "excuse me?  You're telling me from the federal government that i HAVE to buy something".  I tried to explain how basic and fundamentally discontinuous that concept was.

At dinner, I sat with a fellow from Norway, a PhD candidate in Naval Strategy.  A super dude, all around, but sorta predictably lefty.  We had a wonderful, wide ranging conversation, and at one point, he asked me if I didn't feel it was time for our Constitution to change, for our system of government to change.   I asked him why he thought that.  He said, "well, it doesn't seem to be working".  I sat up straight and said, "it is working perfectly.  It is a perfect representation of the deeply divided country."  I think people here in Europe are looking back over their shoulders at us and wondering when the crazy Republicans are going to break down and give in to the benevolent Barack.  They simply have no idea of the depth of the resistance to his policies.  They have no sense of how deeply divided our country is, how what we are arguing about is perhaps the last best way to keep the nation from sliding into entitlement hell and second rate status.

This is an interesting time to be here. 


Anonymous said...

NSA to Angela Merkel: Give us a break, we were just checking to ensure you are not a NAZI.

LL said...

If you look at a map of the US, outside of the urban hells along the coast (LA, San Francisco, etc) and the Indian reservations, not one single county carried for Obama.

Obama finds his support in the inner cities and in concentrations of "welfare recipients". The rest of the country feels another way.

Tubby said...

I am delighted that the Germans are miserable because another one of their messiahs turned out to be an asshole. In America, we'd say I am experiencing "schadenfreude".

"The Hammer" said...

The Europeans, including the Krauts are almost entirely dependent on US intel so they know how damned nosy we are. And why wouldn't the Chancellor have a secure cell phone?
Look, this NSA shit is outta control, and if this kind of news embarrasses Obama or reins in the abuses then I'm all for it. But an intelligence community of any country gathering info on another country is the way the game is played and the Bosch know it.

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