Benefits

Had a video meeting for work yesterday where a manager several layers over our team presented for a couple hours to perhaps fifty engineers. It was mostly technical in nature, but there was also the announcement that the company has restored the practice of health benefits taking effect on the first day of employment, rather than after three months of employment as is now the case. This change will take effect July 1, we are told – new employees whose start dates are between now and July 1 will need to wait until July to have health insurance.

The change is presented as a sort of perk, a good thing the company is doing for its employees. This was also the spin given by my group’s manager when he told us about it several weeks ago. He’d also said the restoration was the result of an outcry from employees. Both the line manager and the guy several layers up saw this as the company being responsive to “feedback” from employees.

There is next to no questioning or response in these meetings. Any single question is a softball pitched forward to provide the presenter an opportunity to say something anodyne, or is perhaps a purely technical question about an immediate organizational concern. There is absolutely no engagement of what the norm is for health insurance in the developed world, what sort of profits the company is making, whose work those profits come from, whose pockets the profits go into. The idea of “feedback” gives the feel of a patriarchal entity making decisions for the “good of the company” and sometimes taking the desires of employees into consideration. The idea that employees have interests which may be opposed to the interests of investors, that wealth is produced by the employees,  that employees can work together to further their interests, just doesn’t enter into the mindset here.

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Arkonaplatz

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Rheinsberger Straße

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Strelitzer Straße

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Gesundbrunnen


I have very fond memories of following a four-year-old on his red bike down these paths.


Spielplatz!

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“Trump ist eine Belastung für Amerika und die Welt”

Spiegel:

Pressestimmen zu US-Luftschlägen
“Trump ist eine Belastung für Amerika und die Welt”
Die westeuropäische Presse ist sich weitgehend einig: Die US-geführten Raketenangriffe auf Ziele in Syrien werden den Konflikt nicht entscheidend zum Positiven wenden. Donald Trump wird teils harsch kritisiert.

I was curious about the source of the headline for Spiegel’s international press summary here, and found it in the Observer. Made the mistake of looking at the LA Times and the San Francisco Examiner also. The Times has “liberals and conservatives upset that Trump neglected to consult Congress.” The Examiner’s website is awash with ads, photos, and sports. There were two pieces on Syria, both from the Tribune news service and so could have been published anywhere (and likely were picked up everywhere).

Lots of good analysis in the BBC, Spiegel, Die Zeit, Guardian/Observer. I’m really relieved to have this to read.

It’s a beautiful day here in Berlin, and the sidewalks are filled with people enjoying lunch in the sun. The door to the balcony is open, and sun, air, and conversation waft into the room.

Several papers have pieces giving Mattis credit for keeping Trump in check. I am reminded of Al Haig in the Reagan and Nixon White Houses. Trump “neglected” to consult Congress. I’m thinking of things I neglect. Sometimes I neglect to pick up my socks. I might neglect to put money in the parking meter. Does a US president neglect to consult Congress before attacking a country with bombs and missiles? I’m pondering this word “upset”. Am I upset that the world press openly writes of a general with the nickname “Mad Dog” keeping a thuggish boor somewhat restrained as he threatens Russia and launches a hundred missiles into Syria? I think “bemused” is probably a better descriptor. How do we step back from this situation? Where does this end?

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Syrien

Spiegel:

Der Vorteil der Regimes in Damaskus, Moskau und Teheran: Sie verfolgen beharrlich und rücksichtslos eine kohärente, langfristige Strategie – das Assad-Regime soll um jeden Preis an der Macht bleiben. Bei Trump kann mit dem nächsten Tweet schon wieder alles anders sein.

Multiple news sources are reporting and editorializing versions of this same observation. As is not unusual I find myself musing about how my fellow countrymen view this state of affairs. In short order the US president announces the US is withdrawing from Syria, “Get ready Russia, because they [missiles] will be coming”, “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”, Assad is “an animal” or “a monster”, and finally Mattis clarifies “Right now this is a one-time shot.”

Yesterday in an article on the possibility of a US attack on Syria Spiegel reported

Die Debatte, ob es hundertprozentige Beweise für die Chemiewaffenattacke der Syrer gebe, bezeichnete [ex-US Ambassador to Germany – there’s currently still no ambassador in the embassy] Kornblum als “eine sehr deutsche Frage”.

I found myself wondering, if the issue of 100% surety about who was behind a chemical weapons attack is “a very German question”, what would “a very American question” be? “Do you want fries with that?” What are American thoughts around the level of coherency to be expected from their senior statespeople?

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Reading

I really liked this piece on Counterpunch this morning, for a number of reasons including the assessment of an American society which reads very little and the differentiation between “tame and earnest awakenings” and mass movement with power to enact change.

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Spandau Prison


When I was a teenager I imagined traveling to Spandau and seeing the prison where Rudolf Hess was being held. After his death I for years imagined visiting the prison where he had been held. It was not until recently that I discovered the prison was demolished thirty years ago and a shopping mall for the English occupying army built on the site.

At the bus shelter in the previous photo there’s an ad for Parship on-line dating service. The standard text tells us that every eleven minutes a single person falls in love through the service. The women advertised are very white. At the erotikmarkt, on the other hand, we are told to follow our lust, and this apparently is assumed to involve a woman who is from the exotic lands to Germany’s East.

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Zitadelle Spandau


Excavation of medieval settlement


View from the ramparts

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