Quotes: The German East/West Divide

Every single one of the country’s 500 richest families is from West Germany. The 30 biggest publicly traded companies are managed by a total of 190 board members, and all but three of them are West Germans. Even in the hundred largest East German companies (not that they are very large), two thirds of the top management jobs are held by West Germans.

And so it continues: Out of 200 generals or admirals in the German army, two are East Germans. Out of 22 university directors in East Germany, three are East Germans. East Germany has 13 regional newspapers, yet West Germans manage all but two of them.

Remarkable numbers from Bettina Vestring in the Berlin Policy Journal.

Time for the Old Man to Go

During the protracted teetering that preceded the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, I came back from Belgrade with this sad souvenir, a five hundred billion Dinar note:

Whoever is driving the train in a state like that is due for a bloody wreck, and Milosevic eventually derailed. But the most catastrophic conductor’s train was just leaving the station.

A few years after Milosevic’s 500,000,000,000 Dinar debacle, Robert Mugabe presided over inflation that, according to a clinical, academic analysis, caused prices to double every 24.7 hours. But there was nothing clinical about actually living in the land of Mugabe. There was chaos.

Robert Mugabe was there when I first turned up in Zimbabwe in 1995. When I think of the considerable chunk of my life gone by since then, I can only mourn for Zimbabweans forced to live all those days under Mugabe, his wife Gucci Grace and their cadre of kleptocrats.

Let us hope that from here all the players, the army, politicians in Zimbabwe and in surrounding countries with interests real or perceived (looking at you, South Africa) can restrain themselves. Let’s all hope ordinary Zimbabweans become the stars of this new show, and get a too-long awaited chance to live and prosper again.

Zimbabwe is gorgeous. In the post-Mugabe future, let’s all visit, congratulate its people and leave behind a wad of foreign currency. Just leave your hunting rifle at home.

Quotes: On Theresa May

Here’s a test for you: what was the last interesting thing the Prime Minister said? The thing we noticed, that stood out, that took a stand and risked controversy in pursuit of a cause?

The answer is: you can’t recall. Since the general election debacle earlier this year she has been largely irrelevant to the political conversation in this country.

That is because she lost her authority when she lost her majority. So instead of doing things, things are done to her.

Where is Nambia?

A number of years ago my Finnish wife and I attended a reception for the Nobel laureate and former Finnish Prime Minister Martti Ahtisaari. In the 1970s Mr. Ahtisaari worked on the question of Namibian independence from South Africa, something the local host mentioned in his introduction. Unfortunately, and to much snickering, the host pronounced Namibia as “Nambia.” We put it down to our living in the provinces, way down in Atlanta.

Alas, the American president does not share this excuse. Speaking in non-provincial New York yesterday, Mr. Trump declared, “Nambia’s health system is increasingly self-sufficient.” Written copies of his remarks reflected the country’s actual name. This makes it clear enough to me that the president of the United States has never heard of Namibia. Sure, Namibia is a fairly obscure country, and too many people fail to differentiate between the astounding array of cultures on the African continent. In fact, some even think Africa is a country. But it’s still disappointing.

And unseemly. Beyond falling short of the ideal that our leader should be a student of the world, and beyond the obvious lack of a staff willing and able to head off stupid mistakes (if Rex Tillerson was Secretary of State, by golly he’d fix it), Mr. Trump’s engagement with Africa seems to be summed up in his further remark that, “Africa has tremendous business potential. I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich.” Kevin Sieff makes the comparison:

And if you’re unfamiliar with King Leopold, well just sort of never mind.

Namibia, by the way, is just slap flat gorgeous. Have a look at some photos in the Namibia Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

If You Know the Words Zapad & Suwalki…

… you’ll enjoy the photographic essay, Inside the Suwalki Gap by Timothy Fadek at RoadsandKingdoms.com. It’s a nice orientation to the region where the quadrennial Zapad (“west” in Russian) Russia/Belarus military exercise has been underway for two days now.

The photo above is Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. The only border between the Baltic states and another NATO country is the 64 mile wide Suwalki Gap, where Lithuania touches Poland. See more Poland and Lithuania photos at EarthPhotos.com.