Sunday, February 12, 2017

Auf Wiedersehen, 4th Reich

These are interesting times for me as an Englishman. Ever since the former UK prime minister, David Cameron, announced an EU-in-or-out referendum, the EU’s leaders, particularly those from Germany, have made an encyclopaedia of threats to the British people, designed to keep them compliant with a Germany-dominated continent. Indeed, Cameron joined in, too stupid to realize that he might lose. His own pathetic threats, codenamed ‘Project Fear’, echoed those from the EU until, spectacularly, they exploded in his face on June 23rd, 2016 and blew him off the political map.

Such intimidation betrays itself. Consider any single unit stating its intention to withdraw from a group. If, after so doing, the unit is destined to fail (and the group set to prosper), the rest of the group would say a friendly farewell and just continue to go about its business. If, conversely, it is likely that the unit would thrive on the outside, to the detriment of the group, then the group’s leaders would, logically, adopt a more aggressive approach. Would they not make threats, out of self-preservation, to try to thwart the unit’s secession?

The latter scenario is playing itself out. Why, because Germany is privately terrified. Not a week goes by without some EU mouth-in-a-suit preaching fire and brimstone to a recalcitrant British flock. Last week, it was the turn of the Bundesbank’s Andreas Dombret (Figure 103.1), who claimed, preposterously, that London’s eminence as Europe’s financial capital is on borrowed time.

Figure 103.1: Herr Dombret’s microphone ought to have been placed on the seat of his chair.

Copyright © 2017 Deutsche Bundesbank

Dombret either ignores, or is too myopic to see, the big picture. Whether he, Merkel, Juncker et al. will admit it or not, the EU is facing three existential crises. The first is economic and has several constituent parts. (1) The European Central Bank is still printing €60 billion, every month, in order for the EU not to descend into a crippling deflationary spiral. (2) Greece will require yet another massive bail-out in July. In truth, the money is required largely to pay back insolvent German banks and would have to come from seething German taxpayers whose patience is tissue-paper-thin. (3) Italy is hot on Greece’s tail but would be way too big to bail out. (4) Only Germany can make up for the UK’s soon-to-be-gone payments to the EU coffers. (5) Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, is circling the drain, owing to debts, corporate fines and its huge derivatives exposure. When it goes, the game is over.

Germany knows that the Euro has been advantageous to it but an equal and opposite disadvantage to Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, where youth unemployment is approximately 50%. The single-currency straitjacket has presented Germany with a de facto weaker currency, making exporting relatively easy to its southern EU neighbours, whose exporting ability is curtailed. Upon Eurozone collapse, Germany’s new currency will rocket to its true value, destroying its export market and massively increasing German unemployment.

The second crisis comes from Merkel’s million migrants. With militant Islamist groups hell-bent on continuing their destruction of Europe from within, Germany’s deranged chancellor last year allowed more than a million opportunists (from all over the Middle East) to walk into Germany, and hence Europe, without any meaningful vetting. It was a Trojan horse but without the horse. Last week, however, she announced that those same arrivals are to be offered up to €1,200 (of German taxpayers’ money) to go back from whence they came. She, too, ought to be sent packing.

Lastly, anti-EU political movements are gaining momentum. Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland party is on the march. More prominent is Marine Le Pen’s Front National, which is on course to win the first round of voting in this year’s French presidential election. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands next month, Geert Wilders might well become its new, and virulently anti-EU, prime minister.

Wake up, all ye pro-EU fools: the Fourth Reich is heading for oblivion (Figure 103.2).

Figure 103.2: Ship of fools

Copyright © 2016

So farewell, Germany. Come what may, you are finished.

Copyright © 2017 Paul Spradbery

Sunday, February 05, 2017

We Who Live By The Sea

Forget La La Land. The best film of this year, which ought to clean up at the 89th Academy Awards three weeks today, is Manchester by the Sea (Figure 102.1), directed by Kenneth Lonergan.

Figure 102.1: Six Academy Award nominations for ‘Manchester’

Copyright © 2016 Amazon Studios

The main character is Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck, a dogsbody janitor who ekes out an anonymous living in a drab Boston suburb. On hearing that his brother is seriously ill, Lee returns to his hometown – Manchester, Massachusetts – but his brother dies just before he arrives.

Lee is stunned to learn that he has been given custody of his brother’s 16-year-old son. The rest of the film centres on this unscripted new relationship which, despite profound mutual affection, neither of them finds ideal. As the odd couple stumble through the tedious post-mortem drag of funeral arrangements and financial bureaucracy, it becomes clear (with a deafening bang) why Lee had left Manchester in the first place. It is a shock that I cannot bring myself to dwell on for long enough even to write a paragraph.

Only when the viewer learns of this unspeakable tragedy can he comprehend Lee’s reticent and impenetrable persona. His emotions very rarely surface (Figure 102.2). This is not because they do not exist, but rather that Lee is fighting a perpetual battle in his own head to keep them beneath. This is how he survives. His only unscripted outbursts come when he gets drunk. If they came out with his mind fully alert, the pain would return and floor him more brutally than could any bunch of rough-ass brawlers in a bar.

Figure 102.2: Casey Affleck as ‘Lee’

Copyright © 2017 NYREV Inc.

Affleck’s portrayal is almost unbelievably thoughtful. Every inconvenience and awkward encounter – and there are plenty – is met by the attitude, ‘OK, emotions behind bars, and here we go again.’ It is like watching a weary old man lock a couple of fierce dogs in a back room before he dare open his front door to a visitor. With everyone he is forced to confront, the same strategy plays out: he opens the door but allows no one in. Hospital doctors, funeral directors, old friends, and flirty women who all but throw themselves at him, are met with empty eyes and an enigma writ large. His self-control is almost painful to watch.

When Lee eventually comes face-to-face with his (equally traumatized) ex-wife, he responds to her tears by insisting, ‘There’s nothing there.’ I suspected that really there was, but he convinces himself that his feelings are extinct rather than merely dormant. He knows that an honest eruption might well finish him off.

The final scene is captured with immense sympathy. As his nephew steers the family boat off the Manchester coast, Lee is perched at the back, gazing in silence upon his beloved seascape. He appreciates that this is as good, and as peaceful, as it will ever get, so he makes the best of it.

In a 21st-century cinematic world of mindless sci-fi and deus-ex-machina fantasy, drama replaced by melodrama, and emotional incontinence as a given, Manchester by the Sea is a film of understatement and understanding (Figure 102.3), made all the more poignant by the knowledge that there are countless Lee Chandlers out there, making their way in the world with almost every facet hidden from sight.

Figure 102.3: Film of the year

Copyright © 2017 Light Cinemas

Copyright © 2017 Paul Spradbery