Middle East, Congress, and Donald (not Trump)

President Obama inherited an office full of problems. The most obvious ones are those which most immediately affect us, particularly the interwoven calamities in banking, employment, and government funding. Then there’s health care reform, and the Supreme Court, and global climate change. Still, the one challenge which may eventually define his administration — for better or for worse — is what to do about Israel. Over the past sixty years, that has translated — in Presidential terms — into what to do for Israel. Gideon Levy, who writes for the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, thinks Obama began well in his meeting with Netanyahu, by trying to save Israel from its own folly.

In one moment he changed Washington’s madness and the attitude toward the Israeli occupation….

In a single move he shrank the fear-mongering of Netanyahu and his mouthpieces on Iran to its proper size. In a single move he put the centrifuges of occupation – the real existential threat to Israel – at the top of the agenda. He fended off Netanyahu’s attempts to divert attention from substantial issues, and blocked all efforts to waste more precious time on Iran and impose ridiculous preconditions on the Palestinians. He also blocked all efforts to distract Israel with committees, promises for negotiations, formulas, declarations and empty words. These are Israel’s best tricks and games; anything to evade responsibility for the main issue – the end of the occupation.

Last November’s election may have provided the most profound Administration change in American history. The change is so arresting and the new guy so charismatic (not a good thing, in the Church of Gop) that we’ve paid little attention to the other new folks in town.

In The Village, as the DC Cloister is coming to be known.

An article at The American Prospect notes that unpaid attention, and offers a look at what it calls The New Kids on the Hill: focus on two of the youngest and most-promising new Congressmen, one from each party.

In Congress, where the median age is 57, Perriello (D) and Schock (R), at 34 and 27 respectively, are touted as rising stars in their parties. Perriello espouses a post-partisan idealism, but his constituency is at the far edge of the Democrats’ big tent, and it’s his task to pursue a progressive agenda without alienating voters who are more exasperated with Republicans than committed to liberalism. Schock, known in Illinois as a pragmatist willing to work with everybody, finds himself on the national stage as the bright face of a party staking its future on obstructing a popular president. He is charged with enlarging — and enlivening — the GOP coalition while at the same time staying true to his Republican district.

Congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner may be setting the tone, but the newest members of Congress are more responsive to their constituents than those made safe by years of seniority and are therefore more sensitive to changing political dynamics.

It’s been a joke, and not a very funny one, the French adulation for Jerry Lewis. A man who for decades made the most annoyingly tasteless and humorless comedies in Hollywood, and who in this country won recognition only for his mawkish telethons and his gargantuan girth, has been hailed by French critics as successor to, and perhaps superior to, Charlie Chaplin.

At least, we tell ourselves, at least there are those brusque, no-nonsense pragmatic Germans. For them, the cultural icon — the American cultural icon — is Donald Duck.

Say the secret word and…

Really. I have it (and you can as well, if you click on the link) on no less an authoritative source than The Wall Street Journal (credit Moby)

Germany, the land of Goethe, Thomas Mann and Beethoven, has an unlikely pop culture hero: Donald Duck. Just as the French are obsessed with Jerry Lewis, the Germans see a richness and complexity to the Disney comic that isn’t always immediately evident to people in the cartoon duck’s homeland.

Comics featuring Donald are available at most German newsstands and the national weekly “Micky Maus”—which features the titular mouse, Goofy and, most prominently, Donald Duck—sells an average of 250,000 copies each week, outselling even “Superman.” A lavish 8,000-page German Donald Duck collector’s edition has just come out, and despite the nearly $1,900 price tag, the publisher, Egmont Horizont, says the edition of 3,333 copies is almost completely sold out.

Donald Duck? That second (or even third) banana to Mickey Mouse, that pallid precursor of the delightful Daffy Duck? The Germans adore him? Well, yes. But they do not read the same DD that we do.

Donald Duck’s popularity was helped along by Erika Fuchs, a free spirit in owlish glasses who was tasked with translating the stories. A Ph.D. in art history, Dr. Fuchs had never laid eyes on a comic book before the day an editor handed her a Donald Duck story, but no matter. She had a knack for breathing life into the German version… Her talent was so great she continued to fill speech bubbles for the denizens of Duckburg… until shortly before her death in 2005 at the age of 98.

Ehapa directed Dr. Fuchs to crank up the erudition level of the comics she translated, a task she took seriously. Her interpretations of the comic books often quote (and misquote) from the great classics of German literature, sometimes even inserting political subtexts into the duck tales. Dr. Fuchs both thickens and deepens [the] often sparse dialogues, and the hilariousness of the result may explain why Donald Duck remains the most popular children’s comic in Germany to this day.

Dr. Fuchs’s Donald was no ordinary comic creation. He was a bird of arts and letters, and many Germans credit him with having initiated them into the language of the literary classics. The German comics are peppered with fancy quotations. In one story Donald’s nephews steal famous lines from Friedrich Schiller’s play “William Tell”; Donald garbles a classic Schiller poem, “The Bell,” in another. Other lines are straight out of Goethe, Hölderlin and even Wagner (whose words are put in the mouth of a singing cat). The great books later sounded like old friends when readers encountered them at school. As the German Donald points out, “Reading is educational! We learn so much from the works of our poets and thinkers.”


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