The Germans are a funny bunch. Germany is certainly Europe’s most successful nation and yet probably among the most stressed of its people. Just a few of my observations as we enter an uncertain 2020. Oh mein Gott!

Lorenz Clasen 1860 — Germania auf der Wacht am Rhein

Stuttgart– I must give credit where credit is due: the Germans listen to each other. I think this is in part because German grammar throws their verbs at the very end of every sentence which forces you to wait for the conclusion to know what they are really trying to say before you can yell back. For those who don’t understand German, it is easy to think they only discuss serious things which, in fact, is not necessarily wrong.

If a nuclear reactor were to go into meltdown one would expect management to interrupt its vacation and get back to work to fix the problem. Not so with our elected officials who have gone into recess despite the fact our world economy is crumbling and cannot wait until September. Europe is no exception to the lets-go-on-vacation-and worry-about-it-in-September rule.

“There is no way this is going to end up well for the United States.  Every tribe in Yemen has received missiles from American drones.  The US aided and financed Saleh all these years.  They covered for him up to just two weeks ago.  The Yemenis won’t forget this.  The crack troops we saw Friday fighting the tribes are the anti terrorist forces equipped and trained by the United States.”

I was standing outside the metro station when I heard a loud bang and a scraping roar. Another bang and the medium sized black-lacquered guitar came scraping out onto the sidewalk and banged into the foot of a Bangali-looking man waiting there.

Without any apology, without even looking at the man, the nine-year-old Gypsy kid runs up to his guitar, tosses it and gives it another kick. He is followed by his father in blue jeans, a denim jacket and a military cap. Both have short black hair and the dark Eastern European Gypsy complexion.

The boy takes another kick, misses and his foot lands on top of the guitar. So the father gives it a kick – bang, roar – showing his son how to have fun destroying a work of art made to create beauty.

I wonder what this kid will be doing for fun in five years? But above all, I understand French anger.

The idea of a universal, government run, health care system seems from this side of the Atlantic a ‘no-brainer’. At 17% of GDP, or more than $7,500 per American per year, you are paying double what any of the other industrialized nations pay where everybody is insured, while in the US 46 million go without health coverage.

Merry Christmas to the four billion people in the world living on less than four dollars a day.  Merry Christmas to the hundreds of thousands, soon to become millions, of home owners heading to the streets in the sub-prime crisis. Merry Christmas to the forty-seven million Americans without health insurance. Merry Christmas to all the privileged people who have to work for peanuts and then die when they reach the age of retirement if they have a retirement system which will give them less than they need to eat anyway. 

And a Jolly ho-ho-ho to all those on Wall Street and the City who are collecting multi million dollar bonuses for a job well done destroying our world’s economy.  Season’s Greetings to those who send out people strapped with bombs to blow up busy markets.  And to American fighter jet pilots who never get to see the collateral damage.

Paris – France : In 1997, a very stubborn French Doctor in a State run hospital did not give up looking. When endoscopies and ultra-sounds turned up no explanation for the severe pancreatitis I suffered from, he sent me to a ‘private’ clinic specialized in invasive procedures.  There they found the tumor in my pancreas and four days later the doctor in the public hospital conducted the queen of all operations: a whipple.  It did not cost me a penny to save my life!