From Uta’s July 2015 Diary


Last Thursday I went to my gentle exercise class. Ayleen, who usually comes along with me, could not make it: She had hurt her back. It was a very cold day. But I decided to put my very warm winter coat on and slowly walk to the community centre. A walk that in the past would have taken me not much more than ten minutes, took me a bit more than twenty minutes. When I arrived there was a nice hot cup of tea and a biscuit with cheese waiting for me.  Because it was such a cold day, the class was not very well attended. Marta, our instructor, had some sad news for us: Towards the end of the year she has to leave us for a few months for she has to go to South America to look after her ailing 98 year old mum for a while to give her sisters a break. She said she is looking out for a relief instructor for us for the time that she is going to be away. I told Marta that it was very good of her that she wants to do this for her mum and her sisters.

I had asked Peter to meet me at the library after my class. I was very keen to look for some books at the library. It has been too long since I had last visited the library. The library is in the same building as our exercise class. So it was easy for me to get there. As soon as I entered the library I became aware that I had forgotten my glasses. What a bummer. Half blind, I tapped around for some books. Despite my limited vision it turned out I ended up with a couple of excellent books: One book is Colleen McxCullough’s 526 page novel BITTERSWEET. The other book is OPPOSED POSITIONS by Gwendoline Riley.

I  already started reading  OPPOSED POSITIONS. I find it is a very interesting read. This writing style and what she writes about appeals to me very much. I found out from that article in The Guardian that this novel is referring a lot to Riley’s own experiences. How to write about your own experiences in a novel, well, this is really something I could learn from, I think.


Novelist Gwendoline Riley talks about her obsessive need to write, and why she’ll never have children
gwendoline riley novelist
‘Extraordinary talent’: novelist Gwendoline Riley. Photograph: Sophia Evans for the Observer Sophia Evans/Observer

Peter picked me up from the library. He also looked around a bit in the library. He was interested in some videos that he could take out on loan for four weeks. He ended up getting four DVDs out. They may come in handy for us to watch over the coming weeks. Often there is absolutely nothing interesting for us on TV.


Uta’s July 2015 Diary (continued)


Just a few days ago I took these pictures on one of my morning walks. I remember it was a very cold but beautiful sunny morning. I wore one of my warmest winter jackets. The other week, during the winter school holidays, I saw one morning a lot of movement around this little playground. A father arrived with two children;  some other children belonged to some women standing around close by. I sat for a while on on of the seats near the playground. The women were busy talking to each other. I was just observing, not talking to anyone. I kind of blended into the landscape, nobody taking any notice of me. I would have loved to take some more pictures, but I did not dare to.


Little Lucas is three today. We are going to see him and the family tomorrow at Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney. Alternatively we might all go to the Powerhouse Museum if the weather turns out to be too bad. It could be very windy and wet. But we hope it is going to be all right tomorrow. Yesterday there was widespread snow all over New South Wales,  even a bit into Queensland! However very close to the coast, where we are, there was no snow.

On the fifteenth of this month it was three years since Gaby died. Peter wrote some beautiful commemoration again into Facebook.


I love to spice my food with Madras Simmer Sauce. The green pieces in the picture are Kale!



We saw already the whole six-part TV series Glitch on iView after having started watching it on ABC TV. It is a fact that we soon got hooked. So we continued watching it online. Last night we watched the last part of the series.

I googled some information about it. Here is one of the write-ups:

“The national broadcaster is staking its claim in the high-concept, big cast, epic drama scene with Glitch, its new six-part series available in full on its iView service from July 9.

The first episode hits the ground running as small town police officer James Hayes (Patrick Brammell) is called to a graveyard to investigate a “disturbance . . . .  “

Something about Puerto Rico

If you go to the above link you can see what The International Spiegel, a German magazine, published on July 08, 2015 the following:


America’s Greece: Fixing Puerto Rico Could Provide Answers for Europe

An Essay By Barry Eichengreen

July 08, 2015

About the Author
  • UC Berkeley

    Barry Eichengreen (born in 1952) is a professor of economics and political science at the University of California, Berkeley.

This is what the professor says in the introduction to his essay:

The Greek crisis could have been stopped years ago if European politicians hadn’t been so stubborn. They should have followed the example set by the United States in dealing with Puerto Rico’s problems.


Here is a link to an article about the despair and agner in Puerto Rico:




The Problem of Greece is Not Only a Tragedy: It is a Lie

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide “No” vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a “bailout” that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse – 4 billion euros more than the “austerity” figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

These reportedly include a 50 per cent increase in the cost of healthcare for pensioners, almost 40 per cent of whom live in poverty; deep cuts in public sector wages; the complete privatization of public facilities such as airports and ports; a rise in value added tax to 23 per cent, now applied to the Greek islands where people struggle to eke out a living. There is more to come.

“Anti-austerity party sweeps to stunning victory”, declared a Guardian headline on January 25. “Radical leftists” the paper called Tsipras and his impressively-educated comrades.  They wore open neck shirts, and the finance minister rode a motorbike and was described as a “rock star of economics”. It was a façade. They were not radical in any sense of that cliched label, neither were they “anti austerity”.

For six months Tsipras and the recently discarded finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, shuttled between Athens and Brussels, Berlin and the other centres of European money power. Instead of social justice for Greece, they achieved a new indebtedness, a deeper impoverishment that would merely replace a systemic rottenness based on the theft of tax revenue by the Greek super-wealthy – in accordance with European “neo-liberal” values — and cheap, highly profitable loans from those now seeking Greece’s scalp.

Greece’s debt, reports an audit by the Greek parliament, “is illegal, illegitimate and odious”. Proportionally, it is less than 30 per cent that of the debit of Germany, its major creditor. It is less than the debt of European banks whose “bailout” in 2007-8 was barely controversial and unpunished.

For a small country such as Greece, the euro is a colonial currency: a tether to a capitalist ideology so extreme that even the Pope pronounces it “intolerable” and “the dung of the devil”. The euro is to Greece what the US dollar is to remote territories in the Pacific, whose poverty and servility is guaranteed by their dependency.

In their travels to the court of the mighty in Brussels and Berlin, Tsipras and Varoufakis presented themselves neither as radicals nor “leftists” nor even honest social democrats, but as two slightly upstart supplicants in their pleas and demands. Without underestimating the hostility they faced, it is fair to say they displayed no political courage. More than once, the Greek people found out about their “secret austerity plans” in leaks to the media: such as a 30 June letter published in the Financial Times, in which Tsipras promised the heads of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF to accept their basic, most vicious demands – which he has now accepted.

When the Greek electorate voted “no” on 5 July to this very kind of rotten deal, Tsipras said, “Come Monday and the Greek government will be at the negotiating table after the referendum with better terms for the Greek people”. Greeks had not voted for “better terms”. They had voted for justice and for sovereignty, as they had done on January 25.

The day after the January election a truly democratic and, yes, radical government would have stopped every euro leaving the country, repudiated the “illegal and odious” debt – as Argentina did successfully — and expedited a plan to leave the crippling Eurozone. But there was no plan. There was only a willingness to be “at the table” seeking “better terms”.

The true nature of Syriza has been seldom examined and explained. To the foreign media it is no more than “leftist” or “far left” or “hardline” – the usual misleading spray. Some of Syriza’s international supporters have reached, at times, levels of cheer leading reminiscent of the rise of Barack Obama. Few have asked: Who are these “radicals”? What do they believe in?

In 2013, Yanis Varoufakis wrote: “Should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising capitalism? To me, the answer is clear. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism …

“I bow to the criticism that I have campaigned on an agenda founded on the assumption that the left was, and remains, squarely defeated …. Yes, I would love to put forward [a] radical agenda. But, no, I am not prepared to commit the [error of the British Labour Party following Thatcher’s victory].

“What good did we achieve in Britain in the early 1980s by promoting an agenda of socialist change that British society scorned while falling headlong into Thatcher’s neoliberal trip? Precisely none. What good will it do today to call for a dismantling of the Eurozone, of the European Union itself  …?”

Varoufakis omits all mention of the Social Democratic Party that split the Labour vote and led to Blairism. In suggesting people in Britain “scorned socialist change” – when they were given no real opportunity to bring about that change – he echoes Blair.

The leaders of Syriza are revolutionaries of a kind – but their revolution is the perverse, familiar appropriation of social democratic and parliamentary movements by liberals groomed to comply with neo-liberal drivel and a social engineering whose authentic face is that of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, an imperial thug. Like the Labour Party in Britain and its equivalents among former social democratic parties such as the Labor Party in Australia, still describing themselves as “liberal” or even “left”,  Syriza is the product of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, “schooled in postmodernism”, as Alex Lantier wrote.

For them, class is the unmentionable, let alone an enduring struggle, regardless of the reality of the lives of most human beings. Syriza’s luminaries are well-groomed; they lead not the resistance that ordinary people crave, as the Greek electorate has so bravely demonstrated, but “better terms” of a venal status quo that corrals and punishes the poor. When merged with “identity politics” and its insidious distractions, the consequence is not resistance, but subservience. “Mainstream” political life in Britain exemplifies this.

This is not inevitable, a done deal, if we wake up from the long, postmodern coma and reject the myths and deceptions of those who claim to represent us, and fight.

John Pilger can be reached through his website:

Twin Sisters (2002) “De tweeling” (original title)

Twin Views of Altered Lives: A Triumphant Film

Author: gradyharp from United States
29 September 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

DE TWEELING (TWIN SISTERS), based on the highly successful novel by Tessa de Loo and adapted brilliantly for the screen by Marieke van der Pol, is assuredly one of the most touching films to date about the strength of family bonds decimated by the horrors of WW II. Director Ben Sombogaart follows Dutch writer de Loo’s lead in making this story about the differing fates of twin girls separated at the death of their parents more of a parallel tale than capitalizing on the grim reality of Hitler’s influence. The result is a cinematically magnificent, gently hued verismo style of film that succeeds even more in its impact than if it were constantly doused in the dark side of its subject.

Germany 1920. Lotte Bamberg (played by three actresses though a long life – child Julia Koopmans, young woman Thekla Reuten and aged woman Ellen Vogel) and Anna Bamberg (child Sina Richardt, young woman Nadja Uhl and aged woman Gudrun Okras) are inseparable twins at age six, living life to its fullest until suddenly both parents are gone and they are split up: the consumptive Lotte goes to live with her upper class Dutch aunt in Holland and the healthy Anna remains in Germany with her poor uncle on a pig farm. Lotte lives a life of privilege, recovers form tuberculosis, studies German at University and sings Schumann (‘Frauen Lieben und Leben’ appropriately!) accompanied by her soon to be husband David (Jeroen Spitzenberger) who happens to be Jewish. As the war threatens Hitler’s invasion on Holland, David is sent to Auschwitz and brokenhearted Lotte marries David’s kind brother and has a child. Meanwhile Anna leads an abused life on the poor and filthy farm, is beaten by her heinous uncle when she begins dating a young handsome Austrian Martin (Roman Knizka) and runs away to work as a maid. Martin believes in Socialism and joins Hitler’s army, and is killed.

Throughout the years of separation each twin writes to the other but their guardians for varying reasons never mail the letters. Anna finally finds Lotte and they have a brief time together in Lotte’s elegant surroundings. But when Anna observes German dinner guests berating Jews she flees. The two sisters find it difficult to separate the losses of their husbands: Lotte blames Anna’s siding with the Nazis as a cause of David’s death. Anna defends Martin’s role as one of idealism that had nothing to do with the genocide of the Jews. They part, seemingly to never meet again. But as old women bedraggled Anna seeks out the elegant Lotte and the two come to understand their opposite opinions of what the war did to destroy their happiness.

The entire cast is so fine that it is difficult to single any one actor out for distinction: this is truly ensemble acting. Never pushing the story to the edge of saccharine or excess of war violence, director Sombogaart keeps his focus on the dialogue between the sisters central, embroidered with the opposing dichotomies of class and political commitment visceral but understated. The cinematography of Piotr Kukla and the radiant musical score by Fons Merkies are astonishingly effective. This is one of the powerful movies about the Holocaust from an entirely different stance – one that grabs you by the heart and holds on for the 135 minutes of the film…and beyond. In Dutch, German and English with subtitles. Very Highly Recommended. Grady Harp

Nonsmokingladybug wrote in a comment to Oosterman Treats Blog yesterday the following:

” .  .  .  .  We streamed a movie on netflix called “De Tweeling” (Twin Sisters). Great movie, one of the foreign films that got awards her in the US. So worth watching, .  .  .  .  ”

Several scenes from that movie you can find on youtube.


Peter and I saw this movie several years ago. It is one of those movies that stay in one’s memory.



Path to Grexit tragedy paved by political incompetence


  1. Professor of Economics and Political Science at University of California, Berkeley


June 29, 2015 7.56am AEST
Many are ready to call it quits with the euro, but down that road lies nothing good. Reuters

Since our last episode, the crisis in Greece has escalated further. Negotiations between the government and its creditors collapsed over the weekend, and restrictions on bank withdrawals will now follow.

The next step is for the government to issue the equivalent of IOUs to pay salaries and pensions. The country is seemingly on the slippery slope to exiting the euro.

Many of us doubted that it would come to this. In particular, I doubted that it would come to this.

Nearly a decade ago, I analyzed scenarios for a country leaving the eurozone. I concluded that this was exceedingly unlikely to happen. The probability of a Grexit, or any Otherexit, I confidently asserted, was vanishingly small.

My friend and UC Berkeley colleague Brad DeLong regularly reminds us of the need to “mark our views to market.” So where did this prediction go wrong?

Why a euro exit didn’t make sense

My analysis was based on a comparison of economic costs and benefits of a country exiting the euro. The costs, I concluded, would be severe and heavily front-loaded.

Raising the possibility, however remote, of exit from the euro would ignite a bank run in said country. The authorities would be forced to shutter the financial system. Economic activity would grind to a halt. Losing access to not just their savings but also imported petrol, medicines and foodstuffs, angry citizens would take to the streets.

Not only would any subsequent benefits, by comparison, be delayed, but they would be disappointingly small.

With the government printing money to finance its spending, inflation would accelerate, and any improvement in export competitiveness due to depreciation of the newly reintroduced national currency would prove ephemeral.

In Greece’s case, moreover, there is the problem that the country’s leading export, refined petroleum, is priced in dollars and relies on imported oil, which is also priced in dollars. So much for the advantages of a depreciated currency.

Agricultural exports for their part will take several harvests to ramp up. And attracting more tourists won’t be easy against a drumbeat of political unrest.

What went wrong?

How did Greece end up in this pickle? Some say that the specter of a bank run was no longer a deterrent to exit once that bank run started anyway due to the deep depression into which the Greek economy had sunk.

But what is remarkable is how the so-called bank run remained a jog – it was still perfectly manageable until the Greek government called its referendum on the terms of the bail out deal offered by international creditors, negotiations broke down and exit became a real possibility.

Nonperforming loans — ones that are in default or close to it — were already rising, to be sure, but the banks still had all the liquidity they needed. The European Central Bank supported the Greek banking system with emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) right up to the very end of June. Only when Greece stopped negotiating did the Central Bank stop increasing ELA. And only then did a full-fledged bank run break out.

So I stand by the economic argument. Where I need to mark my views to market, however, is for underestimating the role of politics. In particular, I underestimated the extent of political incompetence – not just of the Greek government but even more so of its creditors.

In January Syriza had run on a platform of no more spending cuts or tax increases but also of keeping the euro. It should have anticipated that some compromise would be needed to square this circle. In the event, that realization was strangely late in coming.

And Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his government should have had the courage of its convictions. If it was unwilling to accept the creditors’ final offer, then it should have stated its refusal, pure and simple. If it preferred to continue negotiating, then it should have continued negotiating. The decision to call a referendum in midstream only heightened uncertainty. It was a transparent effort to evade responsibility. It was the action of leaders more interested in retaining office than in minimizing the cost to the country of the crisis.

A hard lesson learned

Still, this incompetence pales in comparison with that of the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF.

The three institutions opposed debt restructuring in 2010 when the crisis still could have been resolved at low cost. They continued to resist it in 2015, when a debt write-down was the obvious concession to Mr Tsipras & Company. The cost would have been small. Pretending instead that Greece’s debts could be repaid hardly enhanced their credibility.

Instead, the creditors first calculated the size of the primary budget surpluses that Greece would have to run in order to hypothetically repay its debt. They then required the government to raise taxes and cut spending sufficiently to produce those surpluses.

They ignored the fact that, in so doing, they consigned the country to an even deeper depression. By privileging their own balance sheets, they got the Greek government and the outcome they deserved.

The implication is clear. Never underestimate the ability of politicians to do the wrong thing. I will try to remember next time.