The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Saturday, November 26, 2005

More on Joschka; and (of course) White Phosphorus

My recent post on Germany’s new Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will likely require plenty of updates as we learn how she takes to the job. At the end of that post, I went off a somewhat random tangent about the former government. In particular, I felt mysteriously compelled to touch upon the Joschka Fischer phenomenon, and give it my best shallow treatment. To make up for this transgression, I offer a couple of more links to stories that do more justice to a man you either love, hate or know nothing about. I guess you might put me in the fine line between ‘love and hate’ camp.

Over the years, I have often tried to explain what this man was up to; both to me, myself and I as well as to others. Nowadays I tend to disagree with his positions, but having once fallen under his spell, I can fess up like the former cult member I am. During almost all of Schröder´s government, he was the most popular of all politicians, a veneer that lost some of its luster when he could not remember much when he testified in front of a parliamentary committee investigating the role of the Foreign Ministry in a visa scandal. Funny, how memory lapses just when it would come in so handy.

Anyway, here are the promised links that highlight some of deeds of Joschka. And if you´re still wondering why it´s worth dwelling on him – and not e.g. Schröder himself, I´ll get back to that some other time (besides, I don´t feel like going negative right now) – what can I say? It was the Germany he represented, some of his visions for Europe, his voice of relative reason on this side of the transatlantic relationship, his support for Israel and hovering above this: a capacity to be constructive in his criticism and to offer more than an ounce of self-deprecation in sea of egotism.

Berlin-based Michael Scott Moore (no, not the Flint-Thing) wrote this piece as it became clear that Fischer was going to be gracious about losing power. I recall the election night TV-discussion (watch this, link upper right, you do NOT need to understand German to comprehend that Gremlins had crept into the Chancellor’s brain) I alluded to last time, and how I wrote then that Fischer probably couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. His boss was losing it right there, so perhaps he was thinking ‘Time to exit with the opposite approach, i.e. dignity.’ And if not, no matter since that’s what happened.

At the bottom of Moore’s article, there are some other great links (including some on Merkel and the election campaign.) I’ll mention two of them here as well. The first is an article by Fischer’s former comrade-in-arms Paul Berman (I hope to read his brand new book ) on how and why they could agree to disagree on Iraq. Just the kind of civil, normal debate I long for; the kind that Schröder usually did his best to scuttle. Secondly, a pre September 11th piece by Anne Applebaum on how Fischer symbolized something new in Germany.


And just in case people continue to share my interest in the White Phosphorus story (this just keeps on giving, so I’d feel cheap if I didn’t share just a little with you,) allow me to guide you to two recent blogosphere takes on it. Yes, they both ‘conveniently’ support the instinct I had all along (insufferable i know, but whatyagonnado?) but they come from very different starting points.

On the right, John Cole over at 'Balloon Juice' sifts through the nitty-gritty of this mess (click here and here.) Meanwhile, over on the left at 'Informed Comment' Professor Juan Cole (I know the names are eerily similar, but there is no conspiracy) debunks the myths being propagated by the likes of the Guardian columnist George Monbiot. I take particular pleasure in this since in my slugfest with the Wizard of Id (see comment section here) I had made some of the same points. Again, isn’t it nice to agree, but still agree to disagree, all the while sticking to the facts?

OK, that’s all folks. Off to have a belated Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s. Considering that my contribution consists of five bottles (not all for me…please!) of the trusty ol’ Aventinus, I expect to feel particularly happy and stuffed (Schneider, show me the money, i.e. Wo ist mein Geld?) Have a nice rest of the weekend.

Goes particularly well with oven-roasted turkey, and makes its cousin tofurkey (right, Neal?) just that much more palatable.


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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving: a Day for All to Embrace Gratitude

"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

While today’s Thanksgiving may not be your country’s day of gratitude, in the spirit of this blog and my own beliefs, may I humbly ask that we all still be thankful…Thankful for what we have, cognizant that others do not and that we fulfill ourselves by bringing joy and safety to others.

My own interest in immigration is so closely tied to this day that I want to round off this note by highlighting these two items.

First, one of the U.S.’s most famous recent immigrants penned a message about the significance of this day. The one and only Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

„In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims held a three-day feast to celebrate the plentiful harvest they reaped following their first winter in North America. Later, Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the national observance of Thanksgiving Day, and it has been celebrated annually since 1863.
On Thanksgiving Day, Americans come together to enjoy the fellowship of family and friends with a feast that symbolizes the many blessings in our lives. In California, we pause to consider our good fortune as residents of the Golden State. We give thanks for the richness of our resources, from our lush farmland to our vistas and from our metropolitan cities to our wilderness.
We are equally grateful for the resources of our people, whose determination and aspiration make our state a beacon of promise and prosperity.
In celebration of Thanksgiving, we recognize the Californians who came before us, those who triumphed over obstacles with courage and ingenuity. We proudly follow their trail to ensure that our state continues to be a land of freedom and opportunity for all.“

Governor Schwarzenegger visited the Sacramento Food Bank on Wednesday to ask all Californians to join him in remembering and supporting those less fortunate during this holiday season and throughout the year. Copyright, the State of California

Secondly, another immigrant celebrating Thanksgiving - ‘the most distinctly American holiday’ - wrote an excellent essay for the Wednesday Wall Street Journal. The inimitable, indispensable Christopher Hitchens (as always covering all bases) answers many a query you may have about this day:

„Concerning Thanksgiving, that most distinctive and unique of all American holidays, there need be no resentment and no recrimination. Likewise, there need be no wearisome present-giving, no order of divine service, and no obligation to the dead. This holiday is like a free gift, or even (profane though the concept may be to some readers) a free lunch--and a very big and handsome one at that. This is the festival on which one hears that distinct and generous American voice: the one that says "why not?" Family values are certainly involved, but even those with no family will still be invited, or will invite. The doors are not exactly left open as for a Passover Seder, yet who would not be ashamed to think of a neighbor who was excluded or forgotten on such a national day?

Immigrants like me tend to mention it as their favorite. And this is paradoxical, perhaps, since it was tentative and yet ambitious immigrants who haltingly began the tradition. But these were immigrants to the Americas, not to the United States.
You can have a decent quarrel about the poor return that Native Americans received for their kindness in leading Puritans to find corn and turkeys in the course of a harsh winter. You may find yourself embroiled, as on Columbus Day, with those who detest the conquistadores or who did not get here by way of Plymouth Rock or Ellis Island. ("Not for us it isn't," as the receptionist at Louis Farrakhan's Final Call once glacially told me, after I had pointed out that her boss had desired me to telephone that very day.) Even Hallowe'en is fraught, with undertones of human sacrifice and Protestant ascendancy. But Thanksgiving really comes from the time when the USA had replaced the squabbling confessional colonists, and is fine, and all-American. As with so many fine things, it results from the granite jaw and the unhypocritical speech of Abraham Lincoln. It seemed to him, as it must have seemed in his composition of the Gettysburg Address, that there ought to be one day that belonged exclusively to all free citizens of a democratic republic…“
(Click HERE for the rest of the essay)


"Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul."
- Henry Ward Beecher

Thank you.


Update/Correction: In the original post, I wrote that Christopher Hitchens was celebrating his first Thanksgiving as a naturalized US citizen. While he filed for citizenship with the then INS (now Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security) after September 11th, 2001 he is still waiting for his case to be processed. This error has now been corrected. It was upon reading Mr. Hitchen's "On Becoming American" that I made the overly optimistic assumption the bureaucracy had run its course by now. It's well worth reading.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Kanzlerin Angela Merkel, Daughter of the Revolution

Things move quickly, and today Germany's freshly inaugurated Chancellor is in Paris, where she had her hand kissed by President Chirac before offering the wily old fox some advice She'll be back in Berlin tonight, after a quick pit-stop in Brussels, where she'll meet with leaders of the European Union and NATO. Tomorrow, she's off again, this time to 10 Downing Street. But while these first days are characterized by these traditional visits to friendly neighbors, yesterday was steeped in ground-breaking symbolism...the kind that counts. (photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP)

On November 22, 2005 the German federal parliament, Bundestag, elected Angela Merkel as the Republic's 8th Chancellor (and the first Kanzlerin, the German feminine version of Kanzler.) She received 397 votes out of the 600 cast, and among these was the outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's, who had not been as generous on election night two months ago. On that occasion, with the outcome of the close election in doubt, he had publicly tried to humiliate her. During a roundtable discussion on TV, the Chancellor - high on adrenaline, testosterone and sleep deprivation - ridiculed the notion that she would ever be Chancellor. Trust me, if you saw it you'd never forget it.

She smiled wryly, and took it on the chin. That should come as no surprise to anyone with a little insight into her life. It’s only been 15 years since her native East Germany reunited with the West, since she became a citizen of the Federal Republic. And a mere year before that she lived behind the Iron Curtain, working as a physicist. Somehow, out of nowhere really, she began climbing the ladder in a way that is almost impossible for a person with a similar background in the West.

Angela Merkel chairing her first Cabinet meeting, November 22, 2005.
Kai Pfaffenbach, Reuters

If you can imagine a female academic or scientist from West Germany, who suddenly joined the political fray, reached the upper echelons of crusty German party politics and became head of the government within some ten years, you have the imagination many folks desire. In all seriousness, this is basically unthinkable.

Yes, Angela Merkel's gender IS an issue, but only because it is made one here. Some people cannot believe this has happened. But it's not her gender that distinguishes her and those who are snow-blinded by this are in dire straits. Horst Seehofer, a former nemesis and now her Minister of Agriculture, presciently uttered that “those who underestimate Angela Merkel have already lost.” In the gallery of 'losers,' one finds not just Schröder but also internal party rivals like Edmund Stoiber (who pushed Merkel out last time and then narrowly lost the 2002 elections) - who now to everyone´s surprise, including his own, finds himself back in Bavaria rather than wielding power in Berlin.

So of course it's not her gender, but then what is it? This is hardly the place for pop psychology, but if we set aside her family and professional life - i.e. being daughter of a priest (her parents were in the Bundestag yesterday) and working as a scientist – we wind up looking at the society she grew up in and the revolution that swept it away. In other words, pop history.

If there is one thing from East Germany that was definitely worth incorporating (and there were more things, whose trashing bred resentment that still simmers,) it was a measure of equality between the sexes. Women worked, albeit in state-run monoliths and bureaucratic behemoths, and there was an all-day educational system that cared for the children. In the West, and now in Germany as a whole, this was simply not the case. This is not about forcing anyone to work or stay at home, but to provide options for individual families. Options that to this day do not really exist if you grow up in Bavaria or the Rhineland.

Merkel was a product of that system and is empowered because of it. But she saw with all clarity that the rest of the People’s Democracy was an authoritarian nightmare. It has been said science provided refuge in a society where deception and paranoia were the norms, and there’s surely some truth to this. When the revolution happened - and as the word implies it came from within, from the desire of people like her - she was prepared to make the most of it. (The new chairman of Social Democrats, herr Matthias Platzeck, has exactly the same background; so that both big parties are now led by 51 year-old Easterners.) Many in the East have not fared so well, but rather than just say she got lucky or marks some exception, one might look for a way forward. She knows she beat the odds, and probably that she is uniquely talented, but she also knows that her fellow Easterners have dreams.

This is why she got into politics, she knew the situation on the ground in East Germany and she knew it had to change. But she could not have known much about West Germany. This must have been to her advantage. In a free society, she was the freest. Rather than conforming, or paying much due to the prejudice and chauvinism she encountered, she ploughed ahead, cut corners and sped past the grumpy old men of her party. She carried no grudges, displayed no prejudice and was not overtly ideological. If others felt it necessary to pigeonhole her as the Eastern conservative female scientist, she shrugged. When former Chancellor Kohl - her own mentor post-1989, and Germany's father figure for nearly two decades - became embroiled in a corruption scandal, Angela Merkel was the only one brave enough to make him step down. But above all, and unlike her Western counterparts, she not only understood what the revolution meant, but that there was much work left to be done. And that it would actually require real change.

In a recent comment, former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Kissinger offered the following insight (in particular it illustrates why today's visit to NATO was so important) :

“The Merkel government marks the advent of a third postwar generation: less in thrall to the emotional pro-Americanism of the 1950s and 60s, but also not shaped by the passions of the so-called '68 generation. Merkel lived under Communist rule during the controversies of the Cold War. To many in Eastern Europe, the internal Western debates over security seemed like self-indulgence compared with the challenges of life under Communist rule. In Eastern Europe, on the whole, the Atlantic alliance represented hope, not controversy. Similarly, European integration was significant as a vision for a better future rather than as a device to loosen ties with the United States. In the early days of unification, I asked her what she considered the great psychological challenge for an East German view of foreign policy. She replied: ‘To learn on vacation to feel as comfortable in France as they now do in Bulgaria.’”

As Chancellor she now has the opportunity to show the way, but this will not easy. She leads a Grand Coalition between the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD) that will gravitate towards the lowest common denominator, and as I wrote a couple of days after the election, this risks being a little too low:

Back in the days of Weimar, Grand Coalitions only fueled the extremists on the left and right. More recently, the Austrian experience has shown worrying signs of the same phenomenon. In this election, experts claim that voters defected to the Liberals and Leftists because they do not want such a coalition. That may be so, but mark my word, there are much more worrying tendencies on display already. The Liberals are mainstream, but they traditionally have a nationalist wing that may be strengthened if they grow in size, incorporating disgruntled Christian Democrats or Social Democrats. Even uglier would be gains for the extreme right, who TRIPLED their national share of the votes this time and are nearing the 5% hurdle in several Eastern areas. And then there's the left who made major inroads, picking up votes from non-voters to Social Democrat loyalists. (They are now larger than the Greens.) There's more where these voters came from and a grand coalition would allow them to be mobilized by the demagogues on both fringes…Besides this bleak scenario – and yes, Germany is a mature and great democracy - there are other reasons to oppose such a coalition. In the US and UK, progressive new thinking has to come out of the main parties...I mean, where else in the political system is it supposed to come from? In Europe, the two big parties are stale and reactionary cesspools of status quo lovers. In Germany, this kind of coalition would comfortably rest on the sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, statist foundations it would be built on. Those in both parties that now want this are these kind of people...the few open minds prefer constellations with the more free thinking parties, i.e. the Liberals and the Greens.

I would have to add - based on my reasoning above - that such a government led by Merkel is the best in these circumstances, and certainly better than having new elections in the early spring as many CDU and SPD politicians (especially Merkel's old guard detractors in the CDU) wanted.

Handover at the Chancellery: Angie with the Shadow
Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

To conclude, a few words on the now former government are warranted. I’ll say it up front; Germany needed this government for its own good. It affected long overdue social changes: e.g. the !1913! citizenship law was liberalized, immigration began to be seen as something potentially positive, gay rights were strengthened and the environment received more attention. These were seismic shifts, mostly pushed by the Greens, and in some cases like the environment I believe they went too far, while the immigration law disappointed many with its timidity. But these are details on issues that the Kohl government barely saw as legitimate concerns.

In international affairs, the Schroder government’s actions also broke taboos, especially with the participation in the Kosovo and Afghanistan missions. The former was the first military engagement abroad for German troops since 1945. A reorientation towards Russia and China was also noticeable. In addition, assertiveness within the European Union, usually in tandem with France, became more common. Finally, we have the deterioration in the relationships with both neighboring Poland and the U.S. Here, there is much hope that Merkel will be able to restore the common sense of mutual interests.

Economic reforms aimed at restructuring the labor market and bringing down unemployment were started. Merkel herself was part of these decisions that had to pass through the Upper House, Bundesrat, where the opposition, now the government, held sway. So carrying on here, and perhaps being a tad more 'rad' is definitely the order of the day.

The Schröder government also featured the darling of German politics, Joschka Fischer, whose rhetoric was always entertaining and who himself became an acclaimed Foreign Minister. While Fischer was both popular and effective, it was Schröder who pushed many of the aforementioned polices. He was Foreign Minister, not the man behind it all and often disagreed with his boss, e.g. Schröder's one man attempt to lift the arms embargo on China. The Bundestag ultimately shot that down. The former taxi driver Fischer (click here for a critical but fair look at his life) is a somewhat pompous man, but he did not take himself too seriously. When he first plomped himself down in the Vice-Chancellor’s leather armchair at the Chancellery, he is rumored to have said, “This has to be the best (housing) squat yet.”

Fischer is gone now and so is Schröder (both will no longer sit in the Bundestag, having resigned their mandates.) Last weekend, the still Chancellor made the rounds and bid his farewells. Most significantly, he was given the military honor called a ´tattoo´ (Grosser Zapfenstreich in German.) The procession, laden with tradition, was a moving affair, especially when the band played the three songs chosen by his wife Doris. In succession, they played orchestral versions of `Summertime, ´ ´Mack the Knife´ and of course ´My Way.´

Gerhard Schröder during the rendition of 'Mack the Knife'
(ARD Television capture)

A well-known journalist, Heribert Prantl, wrote a mean but poignant afterthought on the charismatic phenomenon called Schröder:

“What a face. The immense efforts exerted during the final push of the election campaign and the following weeks have left deep, visible traces. What imprints will power leave on Angela Merkel? In the pale light, Schröder now looks like Dracula following the expulsion from Transylvania…(yet) Schröder represented Germany in all its contradictions, in his desire and inability, in his lethargy and energy, in his swagger, sensitivity and brutality…he was the post-War child just like his predecessor Kohl was the War child…he was Germany and with him, instead of a military march, there was Mack the Knife...” (my translation)

The outgoing Chancellor was serenaded into the sunset with a song of freedom from the Weimar Republic - and if you think I'm being flippant here, please reread your history. His work was done and he handed over the keys to the struggling but free Republic. Germany and the rest of Europe - mostly still in the grip of fossilized fogeys - should prepare for change. All this came to mind as I saw her taking the oath of office. Angela Merkel had come from afar, but feels no need to rest. There really can no reason to underestimate her, this daughter of the revolution.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

NYT Catches Up; Prohibition Thwarted (again)

This post contains two parts, one heavy and the other, heavy. Really.

Yesterday, the NYT finally published an original, i.e. by one of its own journalists, news article about the White Phosphorus sham. If you’re thinking that ol' Oz is stuck in the Wooley Swamp himself since he can’t lay off this story, indulge me for just a second.

After all, this was the story that finally made me get my act together and start blogging for the surprised masses. Barely awake, going on instinct and dreaming of espresso, I had more than a hunch that it was pure and simple jabberwocky. And so it was. It also touches on the sometime Wonderland impression of the situation in Iraq, accusations of lying and media bias/credibility. Obviously, it was the tremor that cracked the dam, the ultimate example of how far some were willing to go in peddling to those who so dearly want to believe the absurd. It was such a flagrant case of incitement, and demonstrated how receptive an audience is out there. Exhibit A of the company no one should want to keep. Yet so many do. It fostered hatred by refracting light into outer space, while deflecting attention from so much else that is not only real, but warrants serious attention. That’s all.

Having quite successfully debunked the allegations – with much help from various quarters – it should be interesting to see how the New York Times reported on the piece. Following a couple of similar pieces – one on National Public Radio, NPR (listen here) and another in the Christian Science Monitor (read here) – the paper of record basically agreed with most of us. It also saw the State Department and the Pentagon as botching the response to the now thoroughly discredited ‘documentary,’ that they were ‘slow’ to react. Now that’s interesting coming from a paper that published on November 21 what many in the blogosphere published on November 8-10.

Let me us just wrap this up by saying that this story, and how it was reported, does not mark an exception. It was simply the most egregious. I also note that the slant in the article by Scott Shane leaves it open as to whether using such a weapon is ever warranted or a good idea. No propaganda, just make up your own mind. How novel. BTW, an interesting debate between the Wizard of Id and me has erupted in the comments section of my last post, check it out here.


WARNING: The following story is crazy close to the sad truth.

On a day when there was only one overriding, historic story in Germany (see tomorrow's post) some people risked missing the caterwauling of a creature on life support. We wouldn’t want that, so allow me to reveal the machinations of a cunning ogre who lives up north in the kingdom of Sweden. First, a little history…

Consider this an intro to the tale of what happened when a little, progressive reactionary country joined the big, bad European Union. Sweden – or as we shall see, its demon child - realized there were more ways than one to do things, so it decided to proselytize the poor misguided souls who were on the wrong path. In this instance, this would be the pot-holed road to eternal damnation, trodden by defenceless peasants at the local pub.

You see, once upon a time, it was decreed that the people of the North shouldn’t drink so darn much. So on the first day – many, many years ago – Systembolaget (a.k.a Systemet, literally: the System Corporation) was created. ‘Twas a beastie from deepest reaches of Hades, whose sole purpose was to restrict sales and access to…alcohol. It soon ran amok and enslaved both its creator and her subjects.

This hideous monopolistic beast terrorized the vodka-craving populace into submission. They cowered at home, gently nursing the one monthly watered-down mead their tax-soaked salaries could cover. And when that was finished, they shook n’ trembled, made sure that the Systemet was napping, and whipped out the home-distilled potato schnaps. Yes, people continued to drink. It was madness. Luckily, neither the Systemet nor the drinkers ever acknowledged this illegal activity, so both parties could carry on their merry conspiratorial ways.

When Sweden was absorbed into the rival EU monster in 1995, the beast knew it was threatened. For in the EU, odd things happened, and in lands of lore like Germania and Gaulle, production of ale and purple nectar was legal and largely unregulated. So Systemet ordered the government of the day to acquire an exemption, giving it a new lease on life. But the Vikings were now at the gates and when they crashed through them in near ecstasy, they discovered that all alcohol was cheaper on the continent. Those nay-sayers had been wrong – “Thanks be to Oden that we voted to join this Valhalla by the razor thin margin of 51-49 and pity those oily fish Norwegian brethren who were instead denied.” The EU was a land of gold, an Eldorado with rivers of hand-pumped Real Cask Ale and grape juice.

So the Swedes embraced an alternative to home-distilling/brewing and went on a shopping spree that’s lasted some ten years. Seemingly insatiable Swedes show no sign of coming up for air. Cheap flights now transport the thirsty hordes to safe harbors like Cork, Vilnius and Santander. Those fortunate enough to live near the land of Hamlet, or a port where the notorious Alco Long Boats dock, always knew where to buy their Absolut (a vodka, still an indentured servant of the Systemet.) And now such forays cost a mere pittance and there are no restrictions save the size of your car trunk. But those who live inland or up in the Arctic, still have a 100 mile drive to the nearest Systemet or a few steps out to their moonshine still. They are still at the mercy of the beast.

A rare photo of the Flying Smorgåsbord, an Alco Long Boat, whose daring bootlegging runs on the high seas provide many a thirsty Viking with schnaps and mead. By only selling the contraband on international waters, the brigands stay out of the Systemet’s clutches. The drinkers, however, pay a high price even here; for they must sport mullets and wear white socks in loafers before the Captain can let them onboard. This draconian measure is necessary since it allows them to blend in with the rest of the passengers.

Now, Anno 2005, Systemet and its very own Golem the Swedish state (let be known here that the human manifestation of Systemet is Anita Steen is married to her governmental counterpart, Prime Minister Göran Persson) has devised a nefarious plan to reclaim its former glory. The day of November 22nd is the day that an advertising campaign was launched, the likes of which we could not have imagined. It will target not only that city of sin – and so much good beer – Brussels, but the rest of the unholy EU as well. The subjects of foreign powers will learn to love Systemet, to appreciate that what it bays for is for your own good.

But, NEIN! Ich bin ein Berliner, and let me tell you, we will all resist. Its hypnotic powers may be equivalent to those of the Giant Squid, but surely we will not be seduced by this disinformation, led to believe the lie that beer could be bad for us? I think not.

As this battle begins, it was heartening to see the valiant knights of St. George launch a preemptive strike last week. After years of debate, the descendants of such luminaries and Real Ale connoisseurs as William Pitt the Younger, William Ewart Gladstone and Winston Churchill, acted in the House of Commons, finally adopted a bill permitting public houses to stay open past 11 in the p.m. Oh joy…

Freedom fighters at an underground pub, somewhere in northern Sweden. Pictured second from right, protected by two Viking maidens, is the legendary Real Ale Purveyor Glyn Morgan from the Druid Inn, Goginan, Llangynfelyn Parish. Braving extreme temperatures and hundreds of hungry moose, he managed to drag five half-kegs of Spitfire ESB across the tundra. His risky mission of solidarity gave them much hope in the dead of winter.

As the Systemet gnashed its teeth up in Cave Central, I smiled and quaffed my Aventinus Weizenbock (seriously, the best beer money can buy, 1 Euro/$0.75 here, a crisp $20 up north) in a free and wintry Berlin.

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Earthquake Update; CARE Pakistan Appeal

Following up on my previous post on the earthquake in Kashmir and northwest Pakistan. On behalf of a friend, I also wish to pass on an appeal for one relief action that I personally know is doing some excellent work.


This past weekend in Islamabad, President Pervez Musharraf, joined by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, headed an international donors conference for the earthquake relief efforts. By all accounts - perhaps in part due to low expectations - it was estimated to be a success. Both the local and international media praised the displayed generosity, see here for the Pakistan Times' glowing editorial and here for Bloomberg's representative news agency take. Now to gather the promised resources and put it all to the best of use.

As winter sets in, there has already been plenty of activity on the ground. Below I will briefly excerpt from an e-mail and a funding proposal for one such action. CARE Pakistan is concentrating on building viable long-term housing in the region. 100 houses have just been ordered and are due to arrive this week.

Nuria Rafique of CARE Pakistan wrote this first-hand account:

"I have just come back from a weekend in the northern areas - we managed, in the short time, to go to Abbotabad, Muzzafarabad, Ballakot, Bessian and Garihabibullah. The level of destruction is so immense that it is actually unbelievable what we witnessed. Of all the places we saw, the area of Ballakot was the worst - it was totally flattened - I don't believe that any locals could have survived as no buildings were left standing, the top storeys of houses were left flush with the ground and cars had been crunched and flattened. The people who are now there are from other areas who are either helping remove the rubble or who have come from far off villages in search of relief goods.

The scale of this tragedy is so enormous - the government, for their own reasons, do not seem to be telling the truth as far as casualties and aid relief is concerned. They, moronically, are more interested in painting a picture of them being in control, rather than saying how many people they have lost - the army itself has lost one whole battalion which was stationed in that area, but they have officially just said they have lost some 250 people…not possible. I promise you when I say that easily well over 200,000 people have already died from this earthquake....and if we are not quick to react, then more will die from disease and the cold. This tragedy is greater than the Tsunami, the terrain is so difficult, there are thousands of small villages dotted around the place...that are running out of time, if they haven't already....and just remember this is just the death toll in one country, Pakistan.

We visited some of the tent villages and met with the families there so we could get an idea of the type of homed we should build and which village CARE Pakistan should take on to rebuild. We also met with local government who are very keen on the idea of adoption and have put together a list of villages in the affected areas which can be taken on for adoption. However, in both the tent villages and in your conversations with local government, the position became very clear - tent villages are a very temporary solution - the best thing to do is to rebuild people's homes in the place where their old home stood, so that these people can get back on their feet as soon as possible. This has to be done sooner rather than later."

On their relief work, CARE Pakistan states:

"In order to prevent this disaster from creating even greater problems for the country, the focus now has to be on rehabilitating those who have survived and putting them back into the position they were prior to the earthquake. After having conducted detailed groundwork and meeting with the affected people, CARE concluded that the best way for these people to rebuild their lives quickly is if they are provided assistance in the form of permanent shelter. For the majority of these people, their homes were their entire livelihood – every penny they earned was reinvested in their house. Thus, it would take them another lifetime to be able to rebuild their homes back to the state that they were in – this is time that they neither have, nor can afford. CARE is committed to provide them with this assistance.
CARE Solution - “Adopt a Village” Programme
– CARE has previous experience in the area of rehabilitation. In 1988, CARE responded to another natural calamity when floods destroyed large areas of – CARE rebuilt the lives of people located in a village near Sheikhupura. CARE is committed to doing the same now. CARE has established an Earthquake Relief & Rebuilding Fund to provide long-term aid to those who have been left homeless. CARE shall adopt 6 villages in the worst hit areas of Azad Kashmir and Northwest Frontier Province, and shall construct seismically designed houses for the surviving village populations, as well as building CARE Schools in each area."

For more info please see CARE Pakistan's website and if you wish to donate, you can use any of the following methods (there is also a PayPal online donation option via the website) :

1. Cheques – you can send a cheque, made payable to “CARE” to CARE’s Head Office at:

21 Waris Road,
Lahore, Pakistan

Please write “CARE Earthquake Relief” on the back of the cheque.

2. Cash – you can either bring cash to CARE’s Head Office at 21 Waris Road, Lahore, Pakistan or deposit such cash in the following CARE account:

Account name: CARE
Bank: Oman International Bank
Account no:
Address: PAAF Building, 7-D Egerton Road, Lahore, Pakistan

3. Wire Transfer of Foreign Currency – for US Dollar, GBP and Euro fund transfer, please send to the following CARE Foreign Currency Account:

Account name: CARE
Bank: Habib Bank AG Zurich
Account no: 20316-333-187-081
Address: 14-B, Davis Road Branch, Lahore, Pakistan

Please state in the wire transfer that the reference is: “CARE Earthquake Relief Fund”.

NOTE: For those living in the United Kingdom, donations can be made by cheque in GBP, payable to “Educare Pakistan” and sent to:

10 Margaret Street,
London W1W 8RL, England

Please write clearly on the back of the cheque that it is for “CARE Earthquake Relief Fund”.

NOTE: For those living in the United States of America, donations can be made by cheque in USD, payable to “Pakistan Literacy Fund”, and sent to:

Pakistan Literacy Fund,
45 W, 60th St, #22K,
New York, NY 10023, USA.

Please write clearly on the back of the cheque that it is for “CARE Earthquake Relief Fund”


Please note that CARE International is a separate entity from CARE Pakistan, potential donors are thus asked to donate to the latter as this will be more expedient.

I wish to reiterate that this appeal is not only completely legitimate but to my mind represents the kind of specific action that will make a difference. Thank you.


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