When the Nazis swept across Europe they didn't only defeat other nations' armies. They looted those they defeated, emptying out the national banks of gold. And they robbed artwork, especially from Jews that they exterminated.
Recently, a huge collection of 1,400 pieces of art, valued at well over a billion dollars, was discovered in Germany. Follow the link for the rest of the article.
It is almost certainly the biggest trove of missing 20th-century European art discovered since the end of World War II, and the first glimpse of it on Tuesday brought astonishment but also anger and the early stirrings of what will likely be a prolonged battle over who owns the works.
For the first time, German authorities described how they discovered 1,400 or so works during a routine tax investigation, including ones by Matisse, Chagall, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and a host of other masters. Some were previously not known to have existed. Others appear to have disappeared around the time the Nazis raided German museums and public collections in the late 1930s to confiscate works they classified as “degenerate.”
Meike Hoffmann, an art historian called in to evaluate the discoveries in the spring of 2012, said she could not believe her eyes, realizing that “we are missing a part of our culture” that the Nazis had tried to destroy and that had now miraculously reappeared.
“These are truly museum-quality works, and you simply do not find these on the market anymore,” she said.
But she and German officials offered only a peek — pictures of a mere handful of the works and a short list of artists — at a packed news conference on Tuesday in Augsburg, an old Bavarian town, leaving many unanswered questions and provoking mounting criticism of officials’ slow and perhaps overly discreet handling of the trove.
Fully aware that the discovery is bound to set off a storm of claims — already being mobilized — officials in Augsburg would not release a complete inventory of what they know so far about their discovery, citing privacy rights and concerns that tracing the provenance of the works will be a costly labor that could take years. Officials would not say where the works are stored. They would not even confirm the name of the man who is believed to have kept the art hidden for decades in his Munich apartment. Nor, they said, do they know where that man is now.
The discovery of the works was first reported by Focus magazine on Sunday. They were thought to have been found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, 79 or 80, the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was stripped of two museum posts by the Nazis after it was determined that he had a Jewish grandparent. Nonetheless, the elder Mr. Gurlitt later became one of the few art dealers selected by Joseph Goebbels to sell to buyers abroad the Modernist works banned by the Nazis.
Some of the works seized in the apartment appear to resemble the titles of works that were in the custody of American and German investigators sent to safeguard cultural treasures in the late 1940s, said Marc Masurovsky, founder of the Holocaust Art Research Project. In 1950 that unit ultimately returned 115 works to the elder Mr. Gurlitt because he convinced the unit that the works were not illegally acquired, said Mr. Masurovsky, whose organization recently joined with the Paris-based dealer and restitutions expert Elizabeth Royer. For example, American cultural advisers returned “Self-Portrait,” by Otto Dix, and “Lion Tamer,” by Max Beckmann, both names of works that have been identified as being in Mr. Gurlitt’s possession.
The heirs of Jewish and other German collectors whose missing artworks may be among those discovered minced few words, accusing the Germans of failing to live up to the spirit of the 1998 Washington accords on restituting confiscated art or works that sellers were forced to give up for rock-bottom prices in order to flee Nazi Germany.
One of the only former owners to be publicly identified is Paul Rosenberg, a French dealer whose family has spent decades searching for hundreds of confiscated works. His granddaughter Marianne Rosenberg said she was angry that her family members had not been contacted and that they were still unable to get more information about a Matisse that reports have identified as belonging to her grandfather.
“We were aware of the name Gurlitt,” she said. “We are trying to track down things ourselves and fail to understand why the German authorities have said nothing to date.”
I have said that German bankers have done what the German army couldn't: conquer continental Europe. Actually, the Germans did hold onto it for a few years. The bankers seem to be holding onto their territory better than the army, though. I even said if you at a map of Europe you will find many similarities to a map of Europe in 1943.
Oh, and yes, the US inexcusably spied on Angela Merkel — but that has nothing to do with this, and anyone bringing it into this conversation thereby demonstrates his or her intellectual bankruptcy. Also, frank talk about German economic policies doesn’t make you anti-German or anti-European; again, anyone trying to evade the substance by bringing that kind of accusation in has in effect conceded the argument...
The creation of the euro was followed by the emergence of huge imbalances, with vast amounts of capital flowing from the core to the periphery. Then came a “sudden stop” of private capital flows, forcing the peripheral nations to eliminate their current account deficits, albeit with the process slowed by the provision of official loans, mainly through loans among central banks. The really bad news for the periphery is that so far the adjustment has taken place mainly through depressed economies rather than regained competitiveness; so the counterpart of that “improvement” for Spain is 25 percent unemployment.
Normally you would and should expect the adjustment to be more or less symmetrical, with surplus countries reducing their surpluses as deficit countries reduced their deficits. But that hasn’t happened. Germany hasn’t adjusted at all; all of the rise in peripheral European current accounts has taken place at the expense of the rest of the world.
And that’s a very bad thing. We are still in a world ruled by inadequate demand, and very much subject to the paradox of thrift. By running inappropriate large surpluses, Germany is hurting growth and employment in the world at large. Germans may find this incomprehensible, but it’s just macroeconomics 101.
You might argue that it’s not the German government’s fault that it runs surpluses — but you’d be wrong. (I’ve fallen into this trap, but acknowledged the error.) For one thing, Germany has pursued fiscal austerity despite its creditor status, contributing to an overall tightening of policy in the eurozone...
Of course, I don’t expect German officials to admit that there’s anything to what Treasury says. They’re not big on macroeconomics as we understand it; actually, they’re not big on accounting identities, since their view seems to be that everyone should be like Germany, and run huge trade surpluses.
Don't count on a female Saudi playwright writing a 21st century remix of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger starring a bunch of non-working class Saudi royals. But anger it is - from King Abdullah downwards; not only at the UN's "double standards" but especially - hush hush - at the infidel Obama administration.
No wonder the House of Saud's unprecedented self-beheading move was praised only by the usual minion suspects; petro-monarchies of the Gulf Counter-revolution Club, aka Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as well as Egypt, who now depends on Saudi money to pay its bills and barely survive.
Kuwait shared Riyadh's pain, enough to send "a message to the world". The UAE said the UN now had the "historical responsibility" to review its role. Bahrain - invaded by the Saudis in 2001 - stressed the "clear and courageous stand". Cairo said the whole thing was "brave".
How brave, indeed, to lobby Arab and Pacific nations for two years, and to spend a fortune training a dozen diplomats in New York for months just to say "no" when you get the prize. The House of Saud would have replaced Pakistan with a Pacific seat; Morocco stays until 2015, in an African seat. As early as five months ago the Saudi seat was considered a done deal at the UN.
NSA-worthy torrents of bits have flowed speculating over the Saudi's alleged "reformist agenda" or "principled position" on R2P (the Responsibility to Protect doctrine), Palestine and turning the Middle East into a weapons-free zone.
To his credit, King Abdullah had advanced a plan for Palestine since 2002 based on a two-state solution and a return to the pre-1967 borders.
But there has been no follow-up pressure on Israel; on the contrary, Riyadh is allied with Tel Aviv on setting Syria on fire. That implies no effort to include nuclear power Israel in a weapons-free Middle East. As for the Saudi version of R2P, it only applies to a sectarian "protection" of Sunnis in Syria.
Apart from a few Middle Eastern spots, no one is seriously losing sleep over the adolescent Saudi move - which displays a curious notion of leverage, as in choosing a PR spin reinventing the corrupt petro-monarchy as the "principled" champions of a cause (UN reform) just as they might have a crack at trying to influence it from within.
That would have implied more scrutiny. For instance, this Monday the Human Rights Council, another UN institution, duly blasted Saudi Arabia on its sterling record of discrimination against women and sectarianism, following reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. As a member of the UN Security Council, the discrepancy between the medievalist reality inside Saudi Arabia and its lofty "reformist" agenda would be even more glaring.
I want my kafir fluid A bottle of that precious kafir fluid, Chateau Petrus - much prized by itinerant Saudi princes in London - may be bet that the "dump the UN" decision came straight from the leading camel's mouth. And now that the House of Saud has decided to keep displaying its "influence" from the outside, nothing makes more sense than the resurfacing of Bandar Bush - who this summer was christened by King Abdullah as the man in charge of the Syrian jihad.
The perennial Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal had lunch with US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Prince's very private luxury digs in Paris this Monday. The mystery is which kafir fluid was consumed; no doubts though in the official, harmless spin; they agreed on a nuclear-free Iran, an end to the war in Syria and a "stable" Egypt. Before the Paris bash, during the weekend, Bandar Bush was already in his trademark full gear, openly announcing to European diplomats in Riyadh that he will buy his Syria-bound weapons somewhere else, will dissociate his scheme from the CIA, and will train "his" rebels with other players, mostly France and Jordan.
The Wall Street Journal has the story, which predictably has not surfaced in Arab media (90% of it controlled by different branches of the House of Saud).
Even more interesting is two other pieces of information leaked by diplomats. The House of Saud wanted the US to provide them with targets to be hit inside Syria when Obama's kinetic whatever would start. Washington adamantly refused.
Better yet; Washington allegedly told Riyadh the US would not be able to defend the Shi'ite majority, oil-rich Eastern Province if the Tomahawks started flying over Syria. Imagine the horror show in Riyadh; after all, mob protection against petrodollars recycled/invested in the US economy is the basis of this dysfunctional marriage for nearly seven decades.
So that should lead us to the now much hyped "independent Saudi foreign policy posture" to be implemented in relation to Washington. Don't hold your breath.
As much as the House of Saud is completely paranoid regarding the Obama administration's latest moves, throwing a fit will not change the way the geopolitical winds are blowing. Iran's geopolitical ascent is inevitable. A Syrian solution is on the horizon. No one wants batshit crazy jihadis roaming free from Syria to Iraq to the wider Middle East.
The Saudi spin about creating "a new security arrangement for the Arab world" is a joke - as depicted by Saudi-financed shills such as this.
The bottom line is that an angry, fearful House of Saud does not have what it takes to confront benign protector Washington. Throwing a fit - as in crying to attract attention - is for geopolitical babies. Without the US - or "the West" - who's gonna run the Saudi energy industry? PhD-deprived camels? And who's gonna sell (and maintain) those savory weapons? Who's going to defend them for smashing the true spirit of the Arab Spring, across the GCC and beyond?
Perennial Foreign Minister Prince Saud is gravely ill. He will be replaced by a recently appointed deputy prime minister.
Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the king's son. Instead of a "principled" stance against "double standards", the House of Saud move at the UN feels more like nepotism.
Texas, beneath the radar of higher-profile national races, will hold elections this fall to address a number of proposed constitutional amendments. Though none of the nine proposed amendments are exactly headline-grabbing (one officially eliminates a state agency that shut down more than 25 years ago, for example) the election will be the first in which the state’s infamous new voter ID laws will be in effect.
The anticipated impact of these new laws on suppressing minority votes has been well documented, but the effect of new laws on women has received markedly less attention.
The new Texas law requires all voters to provide a photo ID that reflects their current name. If they cannot, voters must provide any of a series of other acceptable forms of identification all of which must match exactly and match the name on their birth certificate.
Supporters of these new laws insist that requiring voters to have an ID that matches their birth certificate is a reasonable requirement. As Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has repeatedly said, "Almost every single person either has a valid photo ID … or it is very easy to get one." What they don’t say, however, is that the people who don’t are largely married women who have taken their husband’s name.
In fact, only 66% of women have an ID that reflects their current name. If any voter is using name different than what appears on their birth certificate, the voter is required to show proof of name change by providing an original or certifiedcopy of their marriage license, divorce decree, or court ordered name change. Photocopies aren’t accepted.
Now ask a woman who’s been married for years where her original marriage certificate is. Ask a woman who’s been divorced — maybe more than once — where all the divorce decrees are. Ask elderly women where their original birth certificate is.
As Elisabeth Genn, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, has noted, "While some women do have access to the entire chain of documents that connects their current name with birth name — including birth certificates and marriage licenses — that’s not always the case."
Ordering a new copy of your birth certificate or marriage verification means travelling in person to the state capital, something largely impossible for senior citizens or people with day jobs, and paying the $22 to have a certified copy printed. You can also wait 6-8 weeks to have it mailed to you and pay $22 plus up to $19.95 in mailing costs.
That is assuming, of course, that you already have several forms of identification. If you don’t, a U.S. District Court has estimated that many Texans would have to travel up to 250 miles to receive a "free" election ID card and pay all the additional fees associated with providing documentation to explain their name change.
More importantly, women who have been voting the same way for years will likely go to the polls in the same way they always have, unaware the changes mean they can no longer vote and that they, in all likelihood, would have needed to begin the process to acquire copies of their legal documents months beforehand.
Meanwhile, men who are married or divorced don’t typically change their name and are therefore not required to submit any additional supporting documents. The extra forms of identification, extra fees, extra travel and, in many cases, exorbitant waiting times mean that the acquiring the documents necessary to legally vote amounts to a poll tax that applies only to women. While lawmakers may say that those are small barriers, necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process, they’re barriers that only apply to certain segments of the population.
It’s no coincidence that Republican-controlled state governments are making it harder for women to vote following a presidential election with the largest gender gap in recorded history. It’s certainly no coincidence that the same states legislators who are passing alarming new restrictions on abortion and birth control are the same ones making it harder for women to vote them out of office.
While some Republican lawmakers insist these new rules are designed only to combat voter fraud, (note: in Texas there have only 37 individual cases voter fraud since 2000), others are more honest and admit that these laws will make it easier for Republicans to win elections, since the groups predominantly affected by the new rules tend to vote Democrat.
Despite a ruling from a U.S. District Court that declared the law unconstitutional, recent Supreme Court rulings that invalidated sections of the Voting Rights Act meant Texas could move forward to enforce the law anyway. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the Department of Justice will sue Texas over the law, saying that it "will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs" and that he will "keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement."
But as November 5th approaches, we’re reminded that elections are taking place whether or not the law is successfully blocked in court. In 2014, midterm Congressional and gubernatorial elections will be in full swing at the same time that similar voter ID restrictions go into effect in states across the country.
That means this time next year, it won’t just be Texas and it won’t just be nine obscure amendments to a state constitution. Millions of women, young and old, could go to the polls just like they always have and realize that, this time, the only thing they’ll be allowed to do is watch their husbands vote.
When you think that creationists wandering the backwaters of the US couldn't be topped, there's always a Saudi cleric.
A Saudi cleric sparked a wave of mockery online when he warned women that driving would affect their ovaries and bring “clinical disorders” upon their children.
The warning came ahead of an October 26 initiative to defy a longstanding driving ban on women in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
“Physiological science” has found that driving “automatically affects the ovaries and pushes up the pelvis,” Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan warned women in remarks to local news website Sabq.org.
“This is why we find that children born to most women who continuously drive suffer from clinical disorders of varying degrees,” he said.
His comments prompted criticism on Twitter, which has become a rare platform for Saudis to voice their opinions in the absolute monarchy.
“What a mentality we have. People went to space and you still ban women from driving. Idiots,” said one comment.
“When idiocy marries dogma in the chapel of medieval traditions, this is their prodigal child,” wrote a female tweeter.
Luhaydan, a member of the senior Ulema (Muslim scholars) Commission and former head of the Supreme Judicial Council, said that “evidence from the Quran and Sunna (the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed) completely prohibit (women’s driving) on moral and social background.”
An online petition titled “Oct 26th, driving for women” amassed nearly 12,000 signatures, while access to it was blocked in the kingdom on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are banned from driving.
Activists declared a day of defiance against the ban on June 17, 2011, but few women answered the call to drive. Some of those who did were stopped by police and forced to sign a pledge not to take to the wheel again.
Saudi Arabia imposes other restrictions on women, including a requirement to cover themselves from head to toe when in public.
The 2011 call, which spread through Facebook and Twitter, was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and severely punished after demonstrating in cars.
THE documentary record regarding an attack on Syria consists of just two papers: a four-page unclassified summary and a 12-page classified summary. The first enumerates only the evidence in favor of an attack. I’m not allowed to tell you what’s in the classified summary, but you can draw your own conclusion.The Syria chemical weapons summaries are based on several hundred underlying elements of intelligence information. The unclassified summary cites intercepted telephone calls, “social media” postings and the like, but not one of these is actually quoted or attached — not even clips from YouTube. (As to whether the classified summary is the same, I couldn’t possibly comment, but again, draw your own conclusion.)
On Thursday I asked the House Intelligence Committee staff whether there was any other documentation available, classified or unclassified. Their answer was “no.”Over the last week the administration has run a full-court press on Capitol Hill, lobbying members from both parties in both houses to vote in support of its plan to attack Syria. And yet we members are supposed to accept, without question, that the proponents of a strike on Syria have accurately depicted the underlying evidence, even though the proponents refuse to show any of it to us or to the American public.
In fact, even gaining access to just the classified summary involves a series of unreasonably high hurdles.
We have to descend into the bowels of the Capitol Visitors Center, to a room four levels underground. Per the instructions of the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, note-taking is not allowed.
Once we leave, we are not permitted to discuss the classified summary with the public, the media, our constituents or even other members. Nor are we allowed to do anything to verify the validity of the information that has been provided.
And this is just the classified summary. It is my understanding that the House Intelligence Committee made a formal request for the underlying intelligence reports several days ago. I haven’t heard an answer yet. And frankly, I don’t expect one.
Compare this lack of transparency with the administration’s treatment of the Benghazi attack. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to her credit, made every single relevant classified e-mail, cable and intelligence report available to every member of Congress. (I know this, because I read them all.) Secretary Clinton had nothing to hide.
Her successor, John Kerry, has said repeatedly that this administration isn’t trying to manipulate the intelligence reports the way that the Bush administration did to rationalize its invasion of Iraq.
But by refusing to disclose the underlying data even to members of Congress, the administration is making it impossible for anyone to judge, independently, whether that statement is correct. Perhaps the edict of an earlier administration applies: “Trust, but verify.”
The danger of the administration’s approach was illustrated by a widely read report last week in The Daily Caller, which claimed that the Obama administration had selectively used intelligence to justify military strikes in Syria, with one report “doctored so that it leads a reader to just the opposite conclusion reached by the original report.”
The allegedly doctored report attributes the attack to the Syrian general staff. But according to The Daily Caller, “it was clear that ‘the Syrian general staff were out of their minds with panic that an unauthorized strike had been launched by the 155th Brigade in express defiance of their instructions.’ ”
I don’t know who is right, the administration or The Daily Caller. But for me to make the correct decision on whether to allow an attack, I need to know. And so does the American public.
We have reached the point where the classified information system prevents even trusted members of Congress, who have security clearances, from learning essential facts, and then inhibits them from discussing and debating what they do know. And this extends to matters of war and peace, money and blood. The “security state” is drowning in its own phlegm.
My position is simple: if the administration wants me to vote for war, on this occasion or on any other, then I need to know all the facts. And I’m not the only one who feels that way.