Category Archives: International news

MAGA misdirects its ‘pride’

How in the name of all that is holy can the MAGA movement justify its political kinship with this nation’s most notorious adversary?

I cannot even begin to comprehend this love affair with Vladimir Putin, his henchmen, his alleged principles and the idea that the MAGA cult in Congress is willing to all but give him a pass on his illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.

The MAGA cultists, of course, adhere to the blathering of the 45th POTUS, who has acknowledged that Putin “talks nice” about him and, therefore, is a good guy and a “strong leader.”

Let’s unpack briefly something about Russia that doesn’t get much play in the American media.

For starters, Russia is a much more diverse society than what POTUS 45 envisions for this country. He bellows about how he wants this country to become a “Christian nation,” but Russia is home to a far greater percentage of non-Christians than the USA.

And did you know that abortion happens to be legal in Russia? The former Liar in Chief wouldn’t for a nanosecond blink at the notion of abortion becoming illegal in this country.

The MAGA minions continue to cling to the moronic notion that their hero in this country can make nice with a known killer and that their partnership somehow will solve all the world’s problems.

I do not get it. I will go to my grave never understanding how an iteration of Russia — the Soviet Union — was once called an Evil Empire but somehow has become the darling of the radical right wing of this nation.

Almost a perfect ending

My two-week sojourn to Germany ended today, and by golly it could have been a perfect landing for this weary traveler.

Except for one little thing … well, two actually.

My luggage didn’t show up!

Over many years traveling, some of it internationally, I have had extraordinary good luck when it involves luggage. I guess today my luck ran out.

I checked into the Nuremberg, Germany airport this morning two hours ahead of my flight to Paris. A two-hour layover there preceded my boarding a plane bound for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Two hours is plenty of time for the luggage to be transferred, right? I sat on the packed Boeing 787 for 10 hours. I got off the plane and went first to customs and then to baggage claim, where I waited and waited some more.

Two pieces of checked luggage didn’t make it.

The kid at the customer service counter looked at my claim tickets and said the bags were “still in Paris. I guess they must have had a weight issue for the plane.”

The luggage will get here in a day or two. Hey, no sweat. I have plenty of clothes hanging in my closet.

You know what? None of this hassle today is going to take a single, solitary thing away from the marvelous time I had with dear friends.

However, first things first. I need to take a nap.

One pledge unfulfilled

NUREMBERG, Germany — I had said my intention upon arriving in this beautiful part of the world was to rent a car and drive locally during my stay with friends.

I am hereby admitting I did not fulfill that pledge.

Why is that? I guess, to put it succinctly, is that I chickened out. There. I have made an admission that at 74 years of age, I no longer am willing to do damn near anything.

We drove to dinner last night. My friend Martin was at the wheel. He chose to take the autobahn to the restaurant we had chosen. The speed limit was 130 kmh, which is slightly more than 80 mph.

Did everyone follow that speed limit? Bwahahahaha!

Not even close!

Young drivers aboard motorcycles — aka “crotch rockets” — roared past us at speeds exceeding 100 mph. Same for every motor vehicle. I would flinch when they zoomed ahead. Martin would shrug and say, “Oh … that’s nothing.”

Nothing? Was he kidding? Yes and no. It’s “nothing,” I suppose to the police. It must be seriously “something” to the poor slob who crashes one of those machines.

I had intended to rely solely on local roadways, to stay off the legendary autobahn were I to rent a car. The train system that serves Martin and Alena’s neighborhood proved quite efficient and comfortable. So … I let the electronic machinery do the driving for me.

As for the next time, I’ll just keep my pledges to myself.

Journey nears its end

NUREMBERG, Germany — My journey to Europe is nearing its conclusion. Very soon, I will be boarding a jet bound for home.

To be honest, I didn’t realize how much I needed the time away until after I arrived. What spurred the realization? Likely it was my friends who greeted me outside of baggage claim at Nuremberg’s international airport.

I have known Martin for 14 years; his wife Alena for about eight. I brought my bride, Kathy Anne, to Germany in 2016 to meet them both for the first time. In 2016, our friends had two sons and Alena was pregnant with their daughter during that visit.

They said something profound to me almost immediately upon my arrival. It was that I should not think of myself as a “guest” in their home, but as a “member of the family.” That was their way of telling me that anything I wanted or needed was mine for the taking inside their home.

They live in a peaceful village outside of Nuremberg. Weitersdorf is among many such villages scattered across this lovely landscape. I have gone without TV, very little “talk radio,” and the only newspaper I have read is the international edition of the New York Times; I don’t read German … you know?

We have talked American politics from time to time during my visit with them. We even have discussed German politics, too. Martin isn’t quite sure about the description I attached to former Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom I described as the “real leader of the Free World” during her time in public office.

I have informed them both that I am crafting a new life at home. My days are filling up with activity. I have made many new friends, one of whom stands out; there likely will be more to say about that relationship later.

My time away from the humdrum of North Texas, though, was time well-spent. Soon it’ll be back to the grind, which I am still seeking to define. I will be ready for whatever awaits.

So proud, but then again …

NUREMBERG, Germany — My journey abroad is beginning to commence to come to an end. I only have a couple more nights in Bavaria before I board a jet for home.

I want to stipulate two critical points.

One is that I am a true-blue American patriot who served his country in war, who pays his taxes without bitching about it and who salutes the flag whenever it flies in front of me.

I also know my country if far from perfect and my aim always in criticizing public policy decisions is to get policymakers to do better.

The other critical point is that whenever I travel to non-English-speaking places around the world, I am a bit self-conscious over my inability to communicate in their language, forcing them to do so in mine. I get that English is the international language of commerce and transportation. But still …

My trip to Germany has been eventful and full of new experiences. I came back to Nuremberg to catch up with two dear friends, a husband and wife who greeted my bride and me in 2016 when we came here the first time. Kathy Anne is gone now and my return was tinged just a bit with sadness. As I told my friends, though, I am moving on with my life just as my wife insisted I do. They get it.

I have seen once more how Europeans have developed rail travel almost to an art form. I have learned how they have crafted a sustainable energy policy that relies almost exclusively on renewable sources of energy. I also have learned how Germans encourage young people to serve their country in a voluntary public service capacity before embarking on their own careers. And … I have learned that higher education in Germany is free.

We don’t do everything perfectly in the country of my birth. A globalist view of our national development seemingly would require us to examine how other nations in our shrinking world handle their everyday affairs. Why not, then, take a peek?

My trip abroad is nearing its end. I will take back many more cherished memories of my time here … and also with fuel for thought that all of us at least should consider.

Re-discovering rail travel

NUREMBERG, Germany — I am pleased to announce that I have rediscovered the joy of traveling locally by train.

I also am prepared to declare that Europeans know to run a train system. The Nuremberg network of rail lines is many things: it is quiet, it is environmentally efficient, and it damn sure runs on time.

The trains here run on electricity, which the Germans obtain chiefly through solar, wind and hydropower. They use a bit of fossil fuel. There isn’t a nuclear power plant to be found in Germany, unlike in neighboring France, which relies heavily on nukes to heat homes and keep the lights on.

I have been taking the train daily from the village of Weitersdorf, where my friends Martin and Alena live with their three children. I ride the train into town, usually with Martin as he goes to work each day. Me? I am free to roam about the city of 500,000 residents on my own.

It’s a 20-minute walk from the house to the station in Rosstal. We quick-step in time for the train to take us downtown to the massive central station, from which trains fan out across Bavaria … and beyond.

My bride and I got acquainted with the train system on our first visit to Nuremberg in 2016. On that visit we took a train to Amsterdam to see more friends in The Netherlands. That trip, too, was an exercise in cold-steel efficiency. We managed to navigate our way through a train line transfer en route to our German friends’ home.

All of this is my way of hoping that eventually we can develop a train system that is as expansive and efficient as what we have seen in this beautiful region of Germany. Yes, we have Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

But … we hear too often about train lines being “down for repair.”

These folks here know how to keep the trains running on time.

All is quiet … for now!

NUREMBERG, Germany — I cannot help but feeling somewhat vulnerable as I visit with friends and travel around the lush countryside of this beautiful region of Europe.

Why? Because of the war that rages just two countries to the east of Bavaria in southern Germany.

Ukraine continues to fight for its life against Russian invaders. Someone will have to explain to me why Russian thug Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago. It was thought Kyiv would fall in four days. It’s still standing. Ukraine is going to get more U.S. aid.

Meanwhile, Germany — the nation the world fought eight decades ago — stands on the precipice of armed conflict. As someone told me the other day, “If Russia invades any NATO country, we’re all in the fight.”

I’m here visiting friends and relaxing. It’s been a joyful time for me and for my friends as we have gotten reacquainted.

But if I get way up on my tippy toes and cast my gaze to the east, I see the signs of potential trouble for Germany … and, indeed, the rest of the world.

This just makes it imperative that we stick with Ukraine as it fights for its very life.

Speaker does his job

In the Republican Party of 2024, styled in the image of former President Donald J. Trump, a norm-preserving, consensus-driven act — even a basic one — can be a career-ending offense.

So wrote the subhead on a story in the New York Times about the decision by House Speaker Mike Johnson to proceed with a vote to give Ukraine billions of dollars in military aid.

I am of mixed feelings about Mike Johnson. He is far from my idea of a perfect House speaker, yet I do not want to see him torpedoed by the MAGA cult that comprises the most vocal caucus within the House GOP conference.

The MAGAites don’t want to assist Ukraine in its fight for survival against the Russian army invaders. They are beholden to Vladimir Putin, the ham-fisted strongman who pretends to be a BFF of the 45th POTUS. The reality appears to be that while POTUS No. 45 admires Putin, his “good buddy” actually loathes him and sees him as a useful idiot.

Mike Johnson, Like Pence, Does What Passes for Brave in Today’s GOP: His Job – The New York Times (1ft.io)

Well, thanks in part to the speaker’s insistence on doing the right thing and standing tall for democracy, Ukraine is going to get more needed aid from Congress as it seeks to fend off the immoral invasion by Russia.

A large part of me doesn’t want to see Mike Johnson torpedoed because he stood up for democracy.

Pictures coming … eventually!

CESKY KRUMLOV, Czech Republic — I own this fancy cell phone that is supposed to allow me to do anything I want while traveling.

It’s not working properly, which means I cannot provide any photographic evidence just yet of the sights I am seeing on my travel through central Europe.

I will ask you to trust me that this town in the Czech Republic is a glorious place that reeks of history and beauty.

My friend and I are staying in a lovely Middle Ages hotel. The rooms are cozy but clean. My friend speaks German and English, I speak only English and the customer service personnel here speak Czech and English.

The antiques go beyond being merely old. They are ancient in many cases.

This much I can declare: This trip has enabled me to cross two more countries off my “need to visit” list, France and the Czech Republic.

The fun continues.

The hunt continues

NUREMBERG, Germany — Very soon, my friend and I are going to head toward the Czech Republic border in search for the perfect Greek pastry.

It will have to be perfect, although it will be difficult to ascertain whether it reaches the level of perfection set by my late bride, Kathy Anne.

Here’s the story in brief.

Kathy Anne and I were married in 1971 and she joined my family that included my surviving grandmother … whom we called “Yiayia.” My grandmother made a particular Greek dessert that Kathy Anne swore melted in her mouth. It is called kourabiedes; it is a cookie covered in powdered sugar.

Kathy Anne and I traveled twice together to Greece. We tried to find a cookie that matched Yiayia’s creation. “Not even close,” Kathy Anne would say.

My pal Martin tells me this particular bakery in the Czech Republic makes some delectable desserts. We shall find out if they measure up to the greatness that came from Yiayia’s kitchen.

My trick knee tells me Kathy Anne would remain unimpressed.