2012: The Year of Reckoning

If there is a year where judgement day will take place, where our actions of the past will determine our fate in the future and where justice will be served once and for all, this year is it and for a good reason. Many sources on both sides of the Atlantic have already touted 2011 as the worst year to date, as scandals hit the airwaves, many politicians were exposed for their wrongdoing, many countries faced default as they spent more than they could save, and most of the public was led to a false sense of security, resulting in protests against Wall Street in the US and other financial institutions in Europe and elsewhere, and the Arab Spring, which is already in its second year.  While 2011 exposed all forms of lies and deception, 2012 will definitely be the year of the truth- where people responsible for the scandals and corruption will be brought to justice, old institutions will collapse and a new world order will be created, and the public will finally start getting what they deserved (and what they have been longing for since 2000), which goes beyond the color of money and other forms of financial security.

Many have gone by the Mayan assumption that 2012 will be the year Earth ceases to exist and that we will all perish on 21 December, 2012. Speaking from our past experience with Y2K and Nostradamus and its connection with 11 September 2001, this theory will never happen in practice. It will be business as usual and we will all celebrate Christmas and ring in 2013, so you can rest easily. Yet we will see fundamental changes in our way of life as many institutions will cave into the pressure by the majority who have perceived them to be corrupt and dysfunctional. What has already occurred in the Middle East and North Africa will make its way to Europe and the Americas, both legally (through the election process) and illegally (through the coup d’ etat).  It may not be like the hot summer of 1968, but it could be even hotter both literally as well as in the context.  Here are some examples of changes that we may see in this year:

The End of the Euro and the Return of the Deutsche Mark:  This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the Euro, yet there is nothing to celebrate about given the events that occurred in the last year. Countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and now Italy have more debt than what their Gross Domestic Product can handle. France might follow and Germany is stretched at the breaking point after dishing out its share of money to help Greece. And now the UK wants to protect its British Pound and its own interest. It is hard to believe that the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties, which were supposed to bind the 27 countries together (17 of which have the Euro currency), are becoming null and void, but given the problems the European countries are having to keep their fiscal policies in order, it is a sad reality. Despite attempts by Germany, France and now Denmark (which leads the European Parliament for the first six months of this year) to stabilize the Euro, elections in France and possibly elsewhere will make every attempt very difficult, if not impossible. Prediction: The Euro will fall and the national currencies, like the German Mark and the French Franc will return, but European policies will remain intact albeit as a loose-leaf political federation.

The End of the Dream Coalition: The sound defeat of the Free Liberals, combined with the scandals involving many members of the Christian Democrats and the lack of satisfaction among the Germans because of the Euro Crisis may spell the end of Angela Merkel’s regime as Chancellor of Germany. Already before the end of 2011 another scandal emerged with an ugly face involving the German President Christian Wulff as he was accused of obtaining a loan from a private bank, which has gotten the Opposition furious and the media happy to defame the former minister of Lower Saxony. Should he step down as president, it could create implications for possible early elections, which would not be a first in modern history. The last early elections of 2005 brought down Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder and perhaps a beleaguered Merkel could face that possibility that her coalition may not last to the scheduled federal elections in 2013.


The End to Washington politics: Perhaps the most pivotal event taking shape in 2012 is not the Olympic Games in London, even though the city will be touted as the first one to host the Games five times since the inception in 1896. It will be the Presidential elections in November that will remake Capitol Hill and break the deadlock that has given President Barack Obama headaches in the past two years. Health care, the debt ceiling, spending cuts, reinforcing the nation’s infrastructure, and finding ways to reduce the unemployment has caused the Republicans and Democrats to harden their stances and the public to lose respect for Washington altogether. Even the President’s performance is considered appalling in the eyes of many Americans. Yet the challengers from the Republican side of the spectrum have not been able to come up with a clear cut plan as to tackle the problems the country has been facing since the Recession started in 2008. Unless the deference of responsibility ends and there is a unified plan to handle the problems that have been left behind from the era of President George W. Bush, we could see a very hot summer over the US which could change the landscape of the US once and for all. There are three ways that could happen: a Revolution like in 1968 marked by protests and violence, a Revolution of 1848 that includes overtaking Washington and New York, or a Revolution of 1936 in Spain, which marked the beginning of the three year civil war. None of these options are desirable. Prediction: Change will come to America but only through a President with a plan and the ability to relate to the needs of the Public and a Congress that will support every policy the President has to tackle the problems that are keeping the country from becoming the best.


The End of Big Oil and its influence: This theory may be far-fetched but is possible in practice. After facing lawsuits because of oil disaster after oil disaster (including the 2010 Disaster off the Gulf of Mexico and the most recent disaster in northern Spain), the increasing interest in renewable energy and electric automobiles and people becoming fed up with the monopoly, increasing oil prices and its cozy relationship with politicians, the influence of the big oil companies will diminish due to regulations and the need to keep their influence in check, something that people have been asking for since 2001 but have not had their wishes respected until now.


The End of Ignorance to the most pressing environmental problems:  If the world ever was to come to an end on 21 December 2012, it will be because of the natural disaster of apocalyptic proportions, similar to what was seen in The Day After Tomorrow. While 2011 was touted as the wildest weather in recent memory with unprecedented snowfall and blizzards, combined with flooding and extremely hot temperatures, this year will most certainly be considered hotter and wilder. Already, both the northern half of the US and all of Europe (minus the Alps) set the record for the warmest December in recent memory with a green and brown Christmas, and 2012 started off with spring weather in Germany and all places to the north. If one follows the trend, a warm December means a January full of hurricanes and an extremely hot summer with high humidity and storms. This was certainly the case in Winter 2006/07 in Germany, where a warm December was followed by hurricane Kyrill, which devastated northern Europe, brought travel to a total standstill, and coined the word kyrillize. If people do not realize the gravity of the situation with global warming and take action, no one will and the consequences will be unthinkable.


And finally….

The End of Rush Limbaugh and Biased Media: In the past 10 years, we have seen the media veer away from becoming a neutral medium where people receive their regular dose of 60 minutes of news on the local, national and international levels and divulge into far left and far right media, influenced by  celebs like Rachel Madow and Keith Obermann (left) and Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh (right). With this divisive influence comes the split in family structure and value where members have been taking sides on certain issues and the ignorance of the most pressing issues that have been mentioned above.  Fortunately, thanks to the likes of CNN and the BBC, German public TV, like N24 and ARD, social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and lastly online blogs and columns, like this one, we are starting to see the influence from the extremes diminish. This is good as many people are really tired of the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who has harassed one celebrity too many too much. Earning six years worth $400 million to host his own talk show, he has influenced the public with his own version of the news to a point where many have believed his propaganda and have tried to encourage others to refer to him for guidance. Whoever says that Michael J. Fox is faking his Parkinson’s Disease and that oil is a renewable resource must be way too insane to write a column or speak on the radio. Once the elections of 2012 are finish, we will also see the downfall of many people like him and the return to reality and real news with neutral information, something that will definitely help us become more informed and indeed smarter.


But before seeing what 2012 will really bring us, there are some memos worth noting that will help determine whether or not the theories brought forth will come true.



Operation Wulff:  The background to the credit scandal involving German President Christian Wulff is as follows: During his time in office, he obtained a home loan from a private bank with low interest rate to purchase a house, which is considered illegal according to German law. He tried to avert the scandal by not mentioning it in his Christmas speech or in any of his interviews and apparently threatening the yellow press and other newspapers, which is also considered illegal. Support for Mr. Wulff is waning and it may be a matter of time before Chancellor Merkel will be forced to elect a new president- another torpedo hit to a Dream Coalition that has been battered with scandals since 2009.

Link: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15642945,00.html

Farewell to Arms?:    2011 was also a record year of deaths of famous people world wide, including those who passed on either shortly before or during the holidays. Among them include Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic who led the revolution of Czechoslovakia (a.k.a. Velvet Revolution) in 1989 and granted a Velvet Divorce from Slovakia in 1993. He was president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992 at the time of the Velvet Divorce and the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003. He died on 18 December at the age of 75.  Dutch actor Johannes Heesters, a popular figure in the German film industry famous for Die Fledermaus (the Bat), Bel-Ami, and the Otto series passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve at the age of 108. And Kim Jong Il of North Korea died on 17 December after a long illness at the age of 70. He is succeeded by his son Kim Jong un as leader of the country and hope is still there for the country to lay down its arms and hostility and embrace peace, although it still remains many kilometers apart. All three figures were controversial in one way or another because of political spats that were considered inappropriate in the public’s eyes, yet deep down realized that peace was important and to a certain degree have set the precident for the next one to enusre that peace and prosperity dominate the global playing field for the next generation.

Links: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6683647,00.html (Havel)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Heesters (Heesters)



The Drive to End Nationalism in Germany: In response to the recent terrorist attacks by the right wing extremists in central and eastern Germany, the drive to consider the prohibition of the NPD in Germany is gaining steam, even though critics consider this futile and will fail at the German Supreme Court in Karlsruhe. It is unclear if and when this will happen, but in order to successfully ban the party, one might want to consider rewriting the constitution, written while Konrad Adenauer was in power in the 1950s, and state that all parties that stress the importance of xenophobism, nationalism or nazisim are forbidden, and that law enforcement should be reinforced to ensure that the law is kept. A discussion on this can be found here:

Link: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15597828,00.html


Lowest Unemployment in 20 Years in Germany: Despite the Euro-Crisis, Germany had a record year as far as employment is concerned. During all of 2011, an average of 2.7 million Germans were unemployed, an average percentage of 8%.  Of which, 10.5% came from the eastern half of the country and 5.6% from the western half. This is the lowest since 1991, the first year of a reunited Germany.  Despite a slight increase of 67,000 people in December, the total number for the last month was 2,78 million. In addition, the Gross Domestic Product rose by 3% for the whole year, making it one of the most productive countries in the world. Unfortunately, despite the rosy numbers, dangers lurk for 2012 as the crisis in Europe may eventually drag Germany down thanks to cuts in programs and the country’s budget and companies’ planning on laying off employees, which could result in an increase in the number of unemployed. This was already announced by Chancellor Merkel during her Christmas Eve address, televised on German TV. It is unclear whether she will be right on her predictions or if Germany will buck the trend.

Links: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15642176,00.html



Double Storm to pummelt Europe: For those wanting to celebrate Epiphany this weekend and take down the Christmas tree, one will have to calculate Ulli and Andrea crashing the party and leaving a mess for Europeans to clean up. On Tuesday, Ulli produced winds as high as 150 kmph (75 mph) in places along the North Sea coast and the Harz Mountain region in northern Thuringia and parts of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, uprooting trees, tearing roofs off houses and creating traffic chaos. Thursday and Friday, the storm’s sister will wreak havoc on the region with much higher wind gusts, combined with hail and snow in many areas, making it one of the strongest storms since Kyrill invaded Europe in 2007. More information will come soon.

Link: http://www.ndr.de/regional/wetter327.html



The Mid-Term Elections in the United States: At the Crossroads or the Beginning of a Revolution? Views from an Expatriate

Author’s note: This belated entry was due to non-blog related commitments plus I wanted to look at  the elections from multiple perspectives before I decided to chime in, with the goal of keeping to my policy of neutrality with this topic. This includes not voting in the mid-term elections as it would not make much of a difference in the current US policies both domestically and abroad.

Which way will Americans go, as indicated by this sign near Sünderup (near Flensburg). Photo taken in May 2010
"Which way will Americans go?"; as indicated by this sign near Sünderup (near Flensburg). Photo taken in May 2010

Well, it’s finally over. The election signs lining up along the streets of the residential districts have been taken down and put away. There are no more people going door-to-door to get the neighbors to vote for one party or the other. The cannons used to fire mud and soot at the candidates have been decomissioned. And most importantly, the people have spoken. The second of November, 2010 will go down in the history as the year of change- change in the political landscape as the era of the Democrats and in particular, the Kennedys have come to an end in place of full Republican dominance of the House of Representatives, the neutralization of the Democrats in the Senate, and the era of the Bush and Palin Dynasties arising over the dome of the Capitol, like the rising sun. Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and the people at Fox News, who have all been in hiding since the elections of 2008, which brought President Barack Obama into power and resulted in the dominance of the Democrats on Capitol Hill, have now used the political flaws of the Obama administration and exploited the president’s youth and inexperience to influence the voters to “roll back America” and make his life virtually a living hell for the next 2 years. Using the old philosophy of too much governance, a socialist-controlled health care system, the unnecessary need for high-speed rail and most importantly, high unemployment, the people have said “no!” to change in their pockets and voted for change on the political scene.  From a point of view of the American who has resided here in Germany since 1999, this ring is all too familiar, as we had an episode happen in the German elections last year.

There, the Social Democrats (SPD) were ousted in a brutal way, as the voters voted for “The Dream Coalition”, consisting of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Free Democrats (FDP). But this was despite the fact that this was the same SPD that considered Helmut Kohl of the CDU too old to govern the country and voted him out in 1998 in favor of Gerhardt Schröder and the coalition with the Green Party, only to find that they got the shaft in 2005 through the emergency elections that brought Angela Merkel to power and created the dysfunctional Grand Coalition, consisting of the SPD and CDU. This coalition was replaced in 2009 with the Dream Coalition that kept Ms. Merkel in power and brought FDP Chairman Guido Westerwelle into the limelight, both at the expense of the SPD.  In both cases, the voters did not need the radical talk show hosts, like Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow to show their displeasure of the SPD and found ways to bring the CDU back into power in its entirety, which has since then enjoyed the fruits of prosperity as the unemployment is low, the country is experiencing the highest growth in the gross domestic product in the world, and there is a sense of economic stability in the Bundesrepublik.

Whether this change of power in the US will help avert another round of recession and follow the success of the Germans remains questionable. But the results of the mid-term elections has led me to asking this one simple question, and that is “Why?”  To answer that, I will look at the results from the view points of the Republicans and the Democrats before I proceed to interpret the implications of the mid-term elections. These are based on the discussions I’ve had with friends and family members from both sides of the big pond, as I try and make sense out of the whole deal. Let us start with the Republicans as they have been highly demanding the need for change:


There are many reasons why many people voted for the conservatives this time around. Many of the reasons that I’ve read and heard about can be bundled up into three main categories: The strive to keep the American Dream alive, The strive to put a cap on governmental spending, and finally most importantly, the strive for jobs but definitely not in areas that will not be beneficial in the long term. The first argument requires a brief explanation for those wanting to know what the American Dream means from an expat’s point of view. The American Dream stresses the importance of independence- the development of onesself and his own successes, while at the same time, have a family, house, career, and own car at an early age (say 25 years). It is what my late grandmother used to say: “Every man for himself.” And one must not forget the obligation to go to church on Sundays to pray and socialize.  The problem with the American Dream is the fact that it is dying, from a conservative’s point of view, for reasons that there are not enough jobs to go around, there are too many regulations that restrict the activities of Americans, and that the government has been spending too much money on projects they claim are not needed and less money on the necessities. This includes spending too much on the health care system which many perceive to be functioning well and on high speed rail which many don’t want in the first place.  The American Dream can only survive when there is less governmental involvement and more freedom to be independent, innovative, and successful.  The second category definitely deals with too much money spent on projects that are not necessary. This includes the investment in renewable energy, high speed rail, and rehabilitating the health care. Renewable energy is understandable, but high speed rail to accomodate a handful of people is considered a waste, and health care, according to many, is a complex system which requires some incremental fixes, but not an overhaul to make it look like a European system. And last but not least, jobs. Many have touted the success of their own businesses and the ability to hire new people. Others are frustrated that there are no jobs to go around because they claim that either the immigrants have taken them or many companies have either outsourced their facilities or have relocated out of country. Many have pointed their fingers at Obama for allowing the unemployment to increase to 10% (although that argument is questionable). Others have taken job losses well and treated it like it was normal. In either case, many claim that with the Republicans in power, there is a potential for the economy to take off right away, like it was the case with the administration of Bill Clinton when the Republicans took control of  the entire Congress in 1994. To sum it up, many wanted the Republicans to come to power because they wanted the US to be the US and not like anybody else. That means as Ronald Reagan put it, the government is evil and should be tamed by the private sectors and the American people, which is the secret recipe of keeping the American Dream alive.


The arguments of the liberal voters, on the other hand, represent a global awareness of issues affecting the US and the rest of the world. This includes global warming which in comparison with the conservatives, is a real issue that needs to be addressed post haste in order to ensure that the next generation would have the same quality of life as this generation. Henceforth many have embraced renewable energy technology, which would bring in jobs, and high-speed rails, which would relieve traffic congestion and pollution. Furthermore, many have seen the flaws of the health care system, which still exists even after the bill to overhaul it was passed. And lastly, many have seen the American Dream disappear forever, as the entire system is broke, thanks to the wrecklessness of the Bush administration, allowing for deregulation and free-wheeling politics in the hands of the big corporations, a trend similar to the Roaring 20s and the Great Depression that followed in the 30s. The reemergence of the Republicans in Congress through the mid-term elections was a big slap in the face as many see the problems President Obama has inherited as something that cannot be fixed overnight, nor within the first four years of office. More disappointing to the liberals is the fact that they see the US as going backwards into time and not moving forward, like the Europeans and Chinese. Hence the country is lagging far behind in the advancement of technology. Some have given up hope and are looking for an opportunity to flee the country, a place where they claim have way too many conservatives who are narrow-minded and ignorant of what is going on around them.


I recently read an article in “Der Spiegel” magazine about the crumbling American Dream and how the mid-term elections have been based on hatred because of all of the problems Americans are facing; including unemployment, homelessness, and an economy that is struggling to create at least a handful of jobs. The author of the piece claimed that all of this was the result of years of neglect of the real issues that are going on and too much focus on the American Dream and ways to keep it alive, even on credit. From my personal point of view, if there was an American Dream, for some reason it is at the crossroads in terms of its own future. The mid-term elections is like a revolution that is in the making. We’ve seen a lot of revolutions that have been carried out because of the need of change in authority and structure. The 1848 revolution brought down oligachy in many places in Europe (minus the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires) and brought social changes to improve the well-being of the continent’s inhabitants. The revolution of 1917 introduced communism in Russia, which spread throughout Europe and triggered counter-revolutions in the 1930s in France and Spain, 1953 in East Germany, 1956 in Hungary, 1968 in Prague (former Czechoslovakia), and 1980 in Poland. The revolution of 1969 in the US was two-fold as demonstrators not only challenged the rule of authority of the older generations but also balked at the Vietnam War.

If the mid-term elections did serve as the modern version of 1969, then a revolution was long overdue. The country is divided up like never before, with the rich getting richer, poor getting poorer, extremists becoming more extreme and fundamentalists becoming more fundamental. We are seeing people taking sides in ways that was never dreamt of 20 years ago. The conservatives are carrying Sarah Palin’s book “Going Rogue” like the Bible, while trying to teach others to be “non-socialists”.  Liberals are trying to knock some sense into these people with well-known facts about the real issues, while keeping themselves informed on these issues through CNN, Minnesota Public Radio, and the BBC to help justify their arguments. Never before have I seen the barriers being built up between these two sides and strengthened and armed for any attack. These differences have torn families and friends apart and are eating away at the fabric of the Constitution, which was created to establish democracy and protect the rights of the people. While the need to put aside the differences has been stressed and the President- facing even greater odds- is ready to compromise with the Republicans, it is impossible for Americans to come together and work on the issues that have been plaguing the country since George W. Bush took office in 2001. In fact, the differences will intensify, sparking a revolution between the conservatives and the liberals, the most dedicated Christians and the non-Christians, the rich and the poor, the Minorities and the Caucasians, which will reshape the way the United States looks like as a whole and will alter the American way of life forever.  The only solution to this deep division is to do what the author of “Der Spiegel” article suggested in the end: “Be inventive and look for ways to succeed.” In this case, we need to find innovative ways to return to civilization, tear these walls down, open the gates, and look at reality from a neutral perspective. Once we all know what is wrong with today’s picture, we can take our course of action and find ways of solving the problems we are facing today, which is as big as Mt. Everest. But no problem is too big to handle, and we will thank ourselves once we determine which direction we will take and what measures we can use to make America what it is- for us and for our children and grandchildren.

It’s just a matter of starting right now…….

Link to article (in German): http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/index-2010-44.html