Sunday, November 12, 2006

Halloween in Beijing

This comment by E.M. Cuneo reminds me of christmas in Nanning:

(...) My husband and I, along with our 2 toddlers, have been spending the fall in Beijing. I was overjoyed when I realized that we’d miss Halloween in New York — as it is, by far, the most overblown, overcommercialized and ridiculous event of the year, imho. We get here and guess what? We get invited to 4 halloween parties by people who don’t know what halloween is, yet want to impress the ex-pat community. "Ohh, darn," I said. "I think the kids are coming down with Typhoid, maybe next year." (...)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Re-Engagement of the American People

Happy or suicidal with tonight's results, something colossal and profoundly important has happened in the United States beginning in 2000 — the re-engagement of the American people with politics. We have had four enormously consequential elections in a row now in which voters have cast their ballots in numbers that we were told we'd never see in our lifetimes. (...)

writes John Podhoretz. Glenn Reynolds calls that a good observation.

So true. Greetings from politically more and more dis-engaging Germany.

I put together some quotes concerning electronic voting machines over at B.L.O.G. The post is almost completely in English, including the following quote and youtube link:

Now that Election Day is over and done, and you're celebrating or bemoaning the win or loss of your favorite corrupt official, kick back with a drink or your morning coffee and watch this video. (...)

In the following video you can watch Prof. Edward W. Felten and "the two kids from Princeton who actually did this work" on (FOX News) air:


Joerg of Atlantic Review has a first reaction from a German official and praises the direct democracy in the US: US Election Results, German Prejudices and Direct Democracy

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Germans, the War - and Bombs

60 Years Later, Buried Bombs Still Frighten Germans, and Kill Some. By MARK LANDLER, The New York Times

More than six decades after the end of World War II, Germans still routinely come across unexploded bombs beneath farmers’ fields or city streets. Lately, there has been a skein of such dangerous discoveries, one with deadly consequences.

On Monday morning, a highway worker was killed when his cutting machine struck a World War II bomb beneath a busy autobahn southeast of Frankfurt. The explosion ripped apart the vehicle and damaged several passing cars, wounding four other workers and a motorist.


It's not for the first time, that I got the impression that Mr. Landler is exaggerating things and is actually drawing a picture of Germany which strucks me as... inaccurate. He has a point in mentioning three more WWII-bomb incidents within the last week, but still: war time bombs are not a big deal in Germany - and we do not come across unexploded bombs "routinely".

Friday, October 20, 2006

Stories from the 21st century (1): Holy Innocents

From the CNN homepage:

Prosecutor: Suicidal, text-messaging teen kills woman

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- A lovesick teenage girl drove into an oncoming car in a suicide attempt that she counted down "8, 7, 6..." in a text message to the female classmate who spurned her, authorities said. The teenager survived but a woman in the other car -- a mother of three -- died.

Louise Egan Brunstad, 16, was charged Thursday with felony murder. Prosecutors said they intend to try her as an adult. If convicted, she faces an automatic life sentence.

"She was actually counting down her imminent threat: 'Nine, eight, seven, six ... I'm going to do it,"' said Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

Authorities said Brunstad rammed her family's Mercedes-Benz head-on into a smaller Daewoo driven by 30-year-old Nancy Salado-Mayo, who was killed. Salado-Mayo's middle child, Lesly, 6, was in a child safety seat and was treated for fractured ribs and other injuries.

Brunstad, who was treated for an ankle injury, had told friends she planned to kill herself after another female student at Holy Innocents Episcopal School refused to have sex with her, Howard said. (...)

Friday, September 22, 2006

"...and will come again if ever needed" - Remembering JFK in Berlin

Last week, I joined a group of about 50 people for a four-days-tour to Berlin. The trip was organized by the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government (Federal Press Office) to show us citizens and taxpayers how the politicians are using our money. It was an interesting journey which most informative parts were about German history. The first site we paid a visit to was Checkpoint Charlie, and among other places, we also visited the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, the Marienfelde Refugee Center Museum - and the Rathaus Schöneberg, the location where then US President John F. Kennedy held his famous speech in 1963, proclaiming "Ich bin ein Berliner".

A few years ago, I worked near the Rathaus Schöneberg for almost a year, and visiting the building used to be an everyday business to me. I knew about the Kennedy speech including the famous quote, but I didn't really pay attention to back then. Therefore, it was quite a strange experience to enter the building as part of a guided tour. We even entered the balcony, from which we had a similiar view as JFK on June 26, 1963, when he delivered his speech from a platform some feet below. The guide told us about the historical context of the speech and how important it was that JFK was accompanied by General Lucius D. Clay, the "father" of the Berlin Airlift. After I've watched the video of the speech, I think that the opening remark

And I am proud (...) to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

was the most important part of the whole speech, at least for the audience at that time, giving them exactly the boost of confidence and reassurance to be under U.S. protection they needed.

JFK's interpreter, Robert H. Lochner, remembers:

Clay, whose interpreter I had been, had recommended me to Kennedy, and I interpreted for the president during the whole trip to Germany. The reception Kennedy received in Cologne, Bonn and Frankfurt had already been enthusiastic but paled against the reception by the West Berliners.

As we walked up the stairs to the city hall in West Berlin for Kennedy's major speech, he called me over and asked me to write on a piece of paper in German, "I am a Berliner." I did, and when we got to West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt's office, while the hundreds of thousands of Berliners were cheering outside, Kennedy practiced it with me a few times before going out on the balcony for his historic speech.

The most powerful part of the speech, of course, is the following, ending with the second German phrase used by JFK, which even made it to youtube, as you can see below:

There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin.

Robert H. Lochner, again:

To Kennedy's political adviser, McGeorge Bundy, if nobody else, it was immediately apparent that making the famous "I am a Berliner" pledge in German gave it considerable additional force. Some historians argue it wouldn't have gone around the world and into history the way it did if he had said it in English. When, after the speech, we again briefly assembled in Brandt's office, I stayed close to the president in case he should talk to any Germans. I could not help overhearing Bundy saying to Kennedy, "I think that went a little too far."

I hear some, if not many Americans complaining that Germany seems to have forgotten about German-American post-war history, especially about the airlift and the contribution of John F. Kennedy and his successors as presidents of the United States. It might well be that we don't remember this history as it would be appropriate - but it is not forgotten. To illustrate my point, I want to close with a quote from a Deutsche Welle article back from 2003, dealing with the 40th anniversary of the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech:

Today, 40 years later, Kennedy's legacy lives on in Germany's collective memory - for example in school books, documentaries about the cold war and in an exhibition at the German National Museum of Contemporary History in Bonn. There, the most famous excerpt of Kennedy's speech is displayed on a television monitor, and there is a copy of the piece of paper John F. Kennedy held in his hand when delivering his speech, complete with the lines "Ich bin ein Berliner" and "Let them come to Berlin" scrawled on it in his own hand-writing.

Herman Schäfer, a custodian at the museum, says the document still elicits a deep response today.

"The reaction of our visitors is very enthusiastic, still enthusiastic, even though this 40 years ago. Everybody - be it young or old people - have in mind that this is a quotation from John F. Kennedy. So they hear this quotation and then the look into the glass case and see with even more surprise that there is this little document with the phonetic transcription of John F. Kennedy. So there is still this enthusiasm about this quotation that (puts) so much emphasis on the German-American friendship during the 1960s."

Submitted to Carnival of German-American Relations

Update August 16, 2009: Since the originally embedded youtube video was removed, I replaced it with a similar, albeit longer, video.


Thursday, September 07, 2006


Atlantic Review points to a new survey by Transatlantic Trends conducted in selected European countries and the U.S.

Transatlantic Trends 2006 is a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Compagnia di San Paolo in Turin, Italy, with additional support from the Fundação Luso-Americana (Portugal), the Fundación BBVA (Spain), and the Tipping Point Foundation (Bulgaria).

To grab just one finding from the press release:

China threatening: When asked to rate their feelings of warmth toward China on a 100-point "thermometer" scale, Americans and Europeans rate China virtually identically (46 degrees to 45 degrees). But 38% of Americans, compared with 27% of Europeans, feel that the rise of China is an "extremely important threat" in the next ten years. In the United States, the largest percentage of respondents is more concerned by the threat posed by growing Chinese military power (35%), while in Europe, the largest percentage of respondents is more concerned by the threat posed by the growing Chinese economy (37%). Among Europeans, the highest perception of the threat of the Chinese economy is in France (53%), Portugal (52%), and Italy (51%). Within the United States, Democrats are more concerned about the economic (37%) than military threat (28%), and Republicans are more concerned about the military (42%) than economic threat (21%).

Considering the fact, that the U.S. has much stronger military ties than Europe with South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, the different perception of China does not come as a surprise. Apart from that, I don't like phone-conducted surveys.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Those Asian Americans at Richard Montgomery High

Yesterday, I did a little WaPo archive diving (Yes, my early sunday morning habits are somewhat strange. Just in case you didn't know that.), and I came across a typical piece on Asian Americans. Excerpts:

Asian Students Contend With Expectations. By Marc Fisher, Washington Post.

"How many of you play piano?" I ask. Nearly everyone raises a hand.

"Been in an SAT prep course since seventh grade?" Oh yeah.

"Go to Chinese school on Saturdays?" Check.

By this point, the Asian students who fill a room at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville are laughing -- at their stereotype, at themselves, at life as immigrants' kids.


The students summoned me here because there's a story they want told, a story about lives that others assume are copacetic -- straight A's, top colleges, smooth sailing.

Other kids at RM may see the Asians -- who make up 23 percent of students there, and 14 percent countywide -- as a privileged class, and there's something to that.

"We can get away with things that other kids can't," says Maddie Jalandoni, a senior. "They never stop us for a pass in the hallway. In ninth grade, I lost my calculator and went to the security office. Normally, they ask you for ID before they give you anything. But she just said, 'I trust you.' "

"That just happened to me today," adds senior Jessica Dinh. "Security stopped this African American girl in the hall, and I was right there and I didn't have a pass either, but nobody says anything to me."

I heard three more stories along those lines before we switched to the flip side. Asian students say teachers hold them to higher standards because they know Asian parents press their kids hard. The students say they put harsh pressure on themselves as well: Non-Asians may see 18 Asians among 26 students in a BC calculus class and think, "They have it made." Asians look at that scene and, as Dinh puts it, "you feel this pressure: I'm surrounded by Asians who are really studying hard, so now I really have to study even harder."

That attitude stems from a life of competition and striving. "I took every lesson possible," says senior Jamie Chen. "Ice skating, gymnastics, violin. Later, I asked my mother why she made me do all that, and she said she always wanted those chances."

Add the punishing quotas that Asian students face in the college admissions game -- colleges don't admit to using quotas, but the numbers tell the story -- and the result is pressure through every step of childhood.


I would love to add some rants on pressure and paternal expectations and stuff. But for me, it's back to "How can we integrate muslims into German society?". And how "We" ("the" Western world, that is) are humiliating them and how we can change our attitudes towards them to make them feel more accepted.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Zero Tolerance And Education: Crucifixion without Christ

NO MERCY. By Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker


This past summer, Rhett Bomar, the starting quarterback for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, was cut from the team when he was found to have been “overpaid” (receiving wages for more hours than he worked, with the apparent complicity of his boss) at his job at a car dealership. Even in Oklahoma, people seemed to think that kicking someone off a football team for having cut a few corners on his job made perfect sense. This is the age of zero tolerance. Rules are rules. Students have to be held accountable for their actions. Institutions must signal their expectations firmly and unambiguously: every school principal and every college president, these days, reads from exactly the same script.


Somewhere along the way—perhaps in response to Columbine—we forgot the value of discretion in disciplining the young. “Ultimately, they have to make right decisions,” the Oklahoma football coach, Bob Stoops, said of his players, after jettisoning his quarterback. “When they do not, the consequences are serious.” Open and shut: he sounded as if he were talking about a senior executive of Enron, rather than a college sophomore whose primary obligation at Oklahoma was to throw a football in the direction of young men in helmets. You might think that if the University of Oklahoma was so touchy about its quarterback being “overpaid” it ought to have kept closer track of his work habits with an on-campus job. But making a fetish of personal accountability conveniently removes the need for institutional accountability. (We court-martial the grunts who abuse prisoners, not the commanding officers who let the abuse happen.) To acknowledge that the causes of our actions are complex and muddy seems permissive, and permissiveness is the hallmark of an ideology now firmly in disgrace. That conservative patron saint Whittaker Chambers once defined liberalism as Christ without the Crucifixion. But punishment without the possibility of redemption is worse: it is the Crucifixion without Christ.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Antiterrorism "Debate" in Germany?

The second hot topic in Germany these days is the arrest of a Lebanese student on suspicion of having taken part in a stillborn terror attack on Germany's rail system, which, as SPIEGEL ONLINE puts it, "has forced the country to face up to the fact that it, too, is a target for extremists":

Big Macs and DIY Bombs

The article gives a press review of German newspapers. This review clearly shows that the perception of the terror threat is still related to the political camp a newspaper feels warm with. The Lebanese wannabe terrorists didn't change anything.

Mark Landler of the New York Times doesn't realize that:

Bomb Plot Shocks Germans Into Antiterrorism Debate. By Mark Landler, The New York Times


The bombing plot, which has led to the arrest of the Lebanese suspect in northern Germany and an intense manhunt for a second suspect, is also reshaping a politically charged debate in Berlin over how much latitude to give law enforcement authorities in fighting terrorism.


[T]he case has rattled Germans, many of whom have clung to the belief that their government’s opposition to the war in Iraq would insulate them from attacks like those in London or Madrid. The trouble-free World Cup in Germany last month reinforced the sense of security.

"People thought for the longest time that Germany would be safe because we didn’t send troops to Iraq," said Johannes Schmalz, the president of the agency for the protection of the constitution — a rough equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

"This presumption is wrong," he said. "The enemy of violent Islamists is the Western world as a whole."


Germany, owing largely to its Nazi past, has been reluctant to pursue more aggressive antiterrorism measures that are standard in Britain and the United States. Berlin and other cities have far fewer surveillance cameras than does London, and the government does not keep a central antiterrorism database.


*sob* Yeah, Nazi past... My goodness. Did the Nazis use surveillance cameras to spy terrorists? Oups, I didn't know that.

A few points:

1.) The term "debate", used in an U.S. "quality" newspaper, is misleading (or bluntly: wrong). We don't have debates in Germany. What we have are a.) a (usually clueless) journalist interviews a biased expert and b.) a bunch of talking heads all speaking at the same time (we call it "talk show").

2.) It's not that we haven't had loads of law inforcement in the aftermath of 9/11.

3.) The fact that there isn't a national data base has nothing to do with the Nazi past, but with the federal system in Germany, which is, bwt, why the comparison between the FBI and the "Verfassungsschutz" of a German state is ridiculous.

4.) I have yet to meet a person who thinks that the decision not to send troops to Iraq was an appeasement measure to prevent terrorism.

The Finance Minister and German Holiday Habits

If you don't have much time to bother about what's going on in Germany, take the following article pars pro toto.

Germany Up in Arms Over Minister's Holiday Comments. Deutsche Welle - Business.

Apparantly, Germany's finance minister Peer Steinbrueck himself is longing for a loooong vacation:

"People are going to have to spend more on their old age and healthcare in future," he said in an interview with a magazine. "That means that we'll no doubt have to forego a holiday trip in order to put aside money for later."

This overwhelmingly stupid remark lead to an immidiate withdrawal of 650 members of the minister's (and my) party, according to the German daily Tagesspiegel.

In the meanwhile, Steinbrueck apologized (german), claiming that "misinterpretation" and "exaggeration" of his remark caused the outrage. Oh, my.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Keeping the flavor of ethnicity

Today's NYT has a piece about Devon Avenue in North Chicago, a Pakistan enclave:

Pakistanis Find U.S. an Easier Fit Than Britain. By Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times


Although heavily Pakistani, the street is far more exposed to other cultures than are similar communities in Britain.

Indian Hindus have a significant presence along the roughly one-and-a-half-mile strip of boutiques, whose other half is named for Gandhi. What was a heavily Jewish neighborhood some 20 years ago also includes recent immigrants from Colombia, Mexico and Ukraine, among others.

"There is integration even when you have an enclave," said Nizam Arain, 32, a lawyer of Pakistani descent who was born and raised in Chicago. "You don’t have the same siege mentality."

Even so, members of the Pakistani immigrant community here find themselves joining the speculation as to whether sinister plots could be hatched in places like Devon Avenue.

The most common response is no, at least not now, because of differences that have made Pakistanis in the United States far better off economically and more assimilated culturally than their counterparts in Britain. But some Pakistani-Americans do not rule out the possibility, given how little is understood about the exact tipping point that pushes angry young Muslim men to accept an ideology that endorses suicide and mass murder.

The idea of a relatively smaller, more prosperous, more striving immigrant community inoculating against terror cells goes only so far, they say.

"It makes it sound like it couldn’t happen here because we are the good immigrants: hard-working, close-knit, educated," said Junaid Rana, an assistant professor of Asian-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an American-born son of Pakistani immigrants. "But we are talking about a cult mind-set, how a cult does its brainwashing."

Yet one major difference between the United States and Britain, some say, is the United States’ historical ideal of being a melting-pot meritocracy.

"You can keep the flavor of your ethnicity, but you are expected to become an American," said Omer Mozaffar, 34, a Pakistani-American raised here who is working toward a doctorate in Islamic studies at the University of Chicago.


Ifti Nasim, a former luxury car salesman turned poet and gay rights advocate, greets a visitor with a slim volume of his works. The cover photograph shows him wearing a bright orange dress, ropes of pearls and a long blond wig. He has been in the United States since 1971.

Some shoppers crowding the sidewalks on Devon Avenue greet Mr. Nasim warmly, telling him they listen to his radio show or read his columns in a local Urdu-language newspaper. In Pakistan, Mr. Nasim says, his flamboyance would not be tolerated, but here he calls his acceptance "the litmus test of the society."

Like many, however, he has moments of doubt, saying, "Pakistani society in Chicago has made a smooth transition so far, but you never know."


For the past eight years, Abdul Qadeer Sheikh, 46, has managed Islamic Books N Things on Devon Avenue, which sells items like Korans, prayer rugs and Arabic alphabet books. He says that since Sept. 11, he has seen signs of the bias that has existed in Britain for decades developing here. He describes a distinctive fear of being seen as Muslim, even along Devon Avenue. Before, a good 70 percent of the women who came into his shop were veiled, he said. Now the reverse is true, and far fewer men wear traditional clothes.

The attitude of the American government in adopting terms like "Islamic fascists" and deporting large numbers of immigrants, he said, makes Muslims feel marked, as if they do not belong here. "The society in the United States is much fairer to foreigners than anywhere else," he said, "but that mood is changing."

This piece isn't unique or outstanding at all, but it's a good reminder why immigration and integration still works in the U.S. - and does not in Europe.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Grass: Enough Said.

Grass Defends Long Silence as Book Sales Soar

This headline says it all. In case you disagree with me, I push you towards Andrew Hammel's entry on Grass: Ja, Guenter Grass was a Nazi

And once you're there, check out this entry as well: Nein, George W. Bush is not a Nazi

Btw, the Wikipedia tells me that Guenter Grass changed his family name from "Graß" to "Grass" decades ago. I consider this a bold hint. Matter-of-factly, we were all blind.

Monday, August 14, 2006


You Should Get a JD (Juris Doctor)

You're logical, driven, and ruthless.
You'd make a mighty fine lawyer.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Women and Diamonds - Something's Going Awry Here

Oh my, the times they are a-changin'. Let's have a look:

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend
From Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)


Tiffany's! ........Cartier!.......Black Star, Frost, Gorham
Talk to me Harry Winston,tell me all about it!
There may come a time when a lass needs a lawyer
But diamonds are a girl's best friend

There may come a time when a hard-boiled employer
Thinks you're awful nice
But get that ice or else no dice
He's your guy when stocks are high
But beware when they start to descend
It's then that those louses go back to their spouses
Diamonds are a girl's best friend


And now - the girls of today. First, Amanda:

I'll be on a mini-retreat until next week doing a little celebration... I will have NO internet access where I am staying (I'll have to go to the nearest Starbucks if I really need a wifi fix). I'm trying to embrace this fact rather than let it piss me off. Yes, Amanda, you must disconnect!
Put. The Blackberry. DOWN.
Interesting article about woman liking tech toys more than SHOES. Shocker! ;)

And Mad Minerva, on the same news story:

Well, diamonds are very pretty, but heck, I'd choose the plasma TV too. How often would I actually wear a diamond necklace? Almost never. How often would I watch programs on a plasma TV? ALL THE TIME, BABY. Who cares about jewelry? Bring on the entertainment technology!

Boys, what do you say? Is this intimidating or what?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wal-Mart says "Auf Wiedersehen" (II)

Blog friend Rayson points to the Wal-Mart coverage over at Oligopol Watch:

Retreat from South Korea (Monday, May 22, 2006)

(...) [Wal-Mart] just announced it was selling off its money-losing 16-outlet South Korean subsidiary. (...)

French chain Carrefour, the #2 retailer in the world, announced last month that it would sell its 32-outlet Korean subsidiary to another Korean retailer, E.Land Corp for $1.8 billion. (...)

The withdrawal of the two companies indicates several things:

  • Globalization, however powerful, is not inevitable.

  • Adjusting to distinct cultural preferences can still be a problem for global firms. (Wal-Mart is having similar problems in Japan.)

  • On the other hand, a comnpany like Tesco can get it right in Korea while others fail.

  • Successful companies retreat when prospects seem hopeless, to concentrate their effort elsewhere (for Wal-Mart and Carrefour in the far bigger and more friendly environment of China).


Wal-Mart retreats again (Monday, July 31, 2006)


Explanations for the German failure are many. First, had real, smart competition (especially Aldi) who knew how to discount as well as , if not better than, Wal-Mart. Second, some of Wal-Mart’s US practices did not make sense in Germany, especially the forlorn attempt to turn German workers into smiling store greeters. Third, it couldn’t deal with the strong German unions, something it keeps clear of, by dint of energetic counter-measures, its US operations.


Strong German unions? I don't think that the German unions are that strong these days. But the laws backing them are, though. And concerning unions and the "more friendly environment" in China, there are interesting news:

Wal-Mart allows first union shop in China (The Australian, via CDT, which has more links on this issue)

US retail giant Wal-Mart conceded at the weekend to the establishment of its first ever trade union -- in China's southern Fujian province. (...)

(link added)

The BBC lede:

Chinese 'create Wal-Mart union'

US retail giant Wal-Mart, which has drawn criticism over allegations it is union unfriendly, has reportedly seen staff in China start their first union.

Sounds like out of the German frying pan into the Chinese fire to me. And Chinese workers aren't iconic for unopposed accepting a company's decision. Ask Siemens.

Monday, July 31, 2006

A Stick - and no Carrot

Ah, there's still a stick lying around here. In case you don't know what a stick is: it's a blog socializing tool, which is very popular in the German blogosphere. You receive a (virtual) "Stoeckchen" and some more or less interesting questions attached to it. After you've answered the questions, you pass the stick to four other bloggers, pretty much like a chain letter. Let's give it a go:

Warum blogst du? (Why do you blog?)

For different reasons. Sometimes, to vent my anger. Sometimes, to share information. And sometimes, to have a reminder for the future.

Seit wann blogst du? (Since when do you blog?)

On September 23, 2005, Mad Minerva made me crossing the Rubicon. I started this blog on December 8, 2005. And on February 24, 2006, I was introduced to the German blogosphere.

Selbstportrait? (Self-characterization?)

Is this a job interview or what? Okay, never mind. Mind-boggled globalization cheerleader. EU-bashing pro-Asian racist. Radical neosocialliberal centrist (no, you can't look up "neosocialliberal" in the Wikipedia, because this doctrine was invented by me, and I don't care to stuff this label with content) with a softspot for neocons and a dislike for diehard pacifists. Devastating GTD-record, btw.

Warum lesen deine Leser deinen Blog? (Why do your readers read your blog?)

I don't know. Some, because they like me. And some others, because they don't.

Welche war die letzte Suchanfrage, über die jemand auf deine Seite kam? (What was the last query to let someone find your blog?)

I have no idea. I don't even know how to check that out. Judging from the comments, "Roy Orbison" would be a good guess, I think.

Welcher deiner Blogeinträge bekam zu Unrecht zu wenig Aufmerksamkeit? (Which of your entries got wrongly too little attention?)

None. If I want an entry to get noticed, I take action ;-).

Dein aktuelles Lieblings-Blog? (Your favorite blog at the moment?)

Um, Sex and Shanghai? Or FP Passport? Judge for yourself, taking into account my previous answers. (It's this one from Switzerland, in fact.)

Welchen Blog hast du zuletzt gelesen? (Which was the last blog you read?)

Letters from Rungholt (Israel, in German) and The Dignified Rant (Ann Arbor, Michigan).

Wie viele Feeds hast du gerade im Moment abonniert? (How many feeds are you subscribed to at the moment?)

You mean blog feeds, right? I don't know. Bloglines tells me: 360. But that includes newspaper feeds as well. As a member of the German Social Democrats, I don't care for numbers anyway ;-).

An welche vier Blogs wirfst du das Stoeckchen weiter und warum? (To which four blogs do you forward the stick, and why?)

To Maddie, Bruce, Joerg and Oliver. Because I'm happy to get rid of it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dating a Girl and Going to War

One of my teachers, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, used to say that going to war is not like asking a girl out on a date. It is a very serious decision, to be made on the basis of carefully crafted answers to even more carefully crafted questions.

Martin van Creveld

For me, there's no difference in going to war and dating a girl. I know, it's my mistake, I know. I'm always taking it too serious. Add this to the two crunching verdicts I received in China ("Mark, you are too sensitive!" and "Mark, you are too honest!") - and you can see, why dating a girl is such an annoyance for me.

And now excuse me. I'm off to...try to date a girl. (Where's my full metal jacket?)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Wal-Mart says "Auf Wiedersehen"

It's the top story of Deutsche Welle: World's Biggest Retailer Wal-Mart Closes Up Shop in Germany. That gives David's Medienkritik reason for a German-hostile rant and Merkel-bashing (wtf? - too bad, that they were inept to blame Joseph Fischer or Joseph Goebbels this time).

I've never been to a Wal-Mart in Germany. No, I did not boycott them or something; it just didn't happen, because there hasn't ever been a Wal-Mart close to me. I have my Wal-Mart experiences, though: Moscow in 1997 (the store was quite... um, Russian). And Nanning, PRC, in 2004 (too expensive in comparison to local options, if you ask me).

Diehard multicultural lefty that I am, I'm more like the "think global, buy local" kind of guy. I prefer the next door 16/7 shop (run by Turks), the polish baker woman at the market with her disarming smile (even if the temperature is 14 F) - and at work, I can't wait the lunch break to visit my Korean grocery lady (NO! It's not about her looks! Not in this case. She is such a lovely, caring person. The other day, I met her on the street near my home, and we found out that we're neighbors! What a joy!)

Talking about Korean ladies: Germany isn't the only country in the world where Wal-Mart is losing a battle (my emphasis):

Is Globalization Succumbing to Glocalization? (via Yale Global)

The Korea Times, 26 July 2006

The success story of E-Mart, a domestic retailer, and the failure of multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart, the world number one retailer, and Carrefour, the strongest retailer in Europe, are not enough to say globalization is succumbing to glocalization. This situation is merely another incident of intense competition resulting from free trade and Americanization. Glocalization is defined as the mix of global standards and local preferences.


To sum up, the famous story of E-Mart and Wal-Mart maybe significant because a company of the size of Wal-Mart failed, but other than that, these things happen all the time. That is what the market is all about. Glocalization has no reason to fit in this story because neither Wal-Mart nor E-Mart was 'glocalized' in the first place. Some people try to make this story an accomplished fact of glocalization but, in my perspective, I see no glocalization in this story.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

It's so darn hard to be a (social) democrat

Mr. Reich, Sir, I hear you:

I'm sitting on the beach last week trying to relax into an abbreaviated summer vacation when someone I barely know comes up to me with a scowl. "Did you read that dumb-fuck middle-class agenda Hillary just put out? If that's all the Dems have to offer to deal with widening inequality, we're screwed," he says, and walks off.

I know exactly what you're talking about. In my case, it isn't Hillary the people are blaming me for, but Kurt or Gerd (yes, still!) or Heidi or... you name it!

I feel my spine tingle, my shoulders begin to ache.

Same with me!

To distract myself I pick up the paper and skim the headlines --

Um...nope. I never ever pick up the paper to distract myself. Big mistake, Sir! Because, here's what you get:

Hezbollah and Hamas attacking Israwl, Israel bombing Lebanon, Iraq tumbling into civil war, more chaos. (...)

By now I'm feeling nauseous. My cell phone rings. It's my good friend John, a welcome distraction. "How'dja like to go to a movie tonight?" he asks, a welcome distraction. Great, I say, eager for any escape. "Fine, he says, I just got tickets to Al Gore's film on global warming."

*giggle* That could not happen to me either, since global warming isn't that hot a topic in Germany. Because, as you probably know, Germany is world champion in fighting global warming and "extreme kyotoing".

People, go read Robert Reich's Rules for a Sane Vacation, three simple, easy to follow rules included.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A very old couple on integration and Iraq

Mark Thoma quotes extensively from a WSJ interview ($) with Rose and Milton Friedman. As always with reading Milton Friedman interviews, I'm a happier person afterwards. Just two quotes:

"At the moment I oppose unlimited immigration. I think much of the opposition to immigration is of that kind -- because it's a fundamental tenet of the American view that immigration is good, that there would be no United States if there had not been immigration. Of course, there are many things that are easier now for immigrants than there used to be. ..."

Did he mean there was much less pressure to integrate now than there used to be? Milton: "I'm not sure that's true ..." Rose (speaking simultaneously): "That's the unfortunate thing ..." Milton: "But I don't think it's true ..." Rose: "Oh, I think it is! That's one of the problems, when immigrants come across and want to remain Mexican." Milton: "Oh, but they came in the past and wanted to be Italian, and be Jewish ..." Rose: "No they didn't. The ones that did went back."

Mrs. Friedman, I was learning, often had the last word.

"(...) In 2008, you may very well get a Democratic president" -- (Rose, interjecting: "God forbid!") -- "and if you can keep a Republican House and Senate, you'll get back to a combination that will reduce spending."

Mr. Friedman here shifted focus. "What's really killed the Republican Party isn't spending, it's Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression." Mrs. Friedman -- listening to her husband with an ear cocked -- was now muttering darkly.

Milton: "Huh? What?" Rose: "This was not aggression!" Milton (exasperatedly): "It was aggression. Of course it was!" Rose: "You count it as aggression if it's against the people, not against the monster who's ruling them. We don't agree. This is the first thing to come along in our lives, of the deep things, that we don't agree on. We have disagreed on little things, obviously -- such as, I don't want to go out to dinner, he wants to go out -- but big issues, this is the first one!" Milton: "But, having said that, once we went in to Iraq, it seems to me very important that we make a success of it." Rose: "And we will!"

Mrs. Friedman, you will note, had the last word.

Sounds like the perfect marriage to me. *sigh*

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Soccer and Death

Couple of weeks ago, I sent two pics of soccer urns to the Queen of Soccer Madness. For more information on soccer urns, see this article (in German, sorry) by business daily Handelsblatt: Bestattung per Fußball

Today, MM hit back by pointing me to this story:

German football team plans cemetery for die-hard fans

By Michael Atkins

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German football club plans to open a cemetery next to its stadium so that die-hard fans can rest in peace alongside their favourite team.

Hamburg SV, a Bundesliga side from the northern port city, aims to open the graveyard some 15 metres (50 ft) from the stadium's main entrance (...)

With 42,000 registered supporters at the club and just 500 graves up for grabs, competition for places promises to be fierce. Officials have already begun taking reservations.


Fans get 25 years in the turf and can choose from a range of burials: ashes in an urn from 2,500 euros (1,708 pounds), a single grave at 8,000 euros and a two person plot at 12,500 euros.

Plans for the 70,000 euro graveyard, due to be completed in September, include a war memorial from the team's former stadium, as well as commemorative stones honouring former Hamburg players (...)

(Link added.)

At least, in Germany soccer isn't such a deadly matter as it is in China:

11 Chinese fans die from 'World Cup Syndrome'

By Wang Wei (
Updated: 2006-07-05 16:58

According to statistics from an overseas blog called "Worldcupdeathwatch", 50 soccer fans around the world have died as a result of the World Cup since it began on June 24. Eleven of those fans were from China, the most of any country.


(Link added.)

For the record: "Worldcupdeathwatch" is not a blog, but a blog category of a blog named "WFMU's BEWARE of the BLOG". Plus, the soccer world cup began on June 9, not June 24.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"About half" - The Pew Blog Report

From Slate (via A Glimpse of the World):

Who Are All These Bloggers? - And what do they want?

When I hear the word "bloggers," I tend to think of the A-listers. But the top 100 are not the quarry of the Pew Internet & American Life Project telephone survey of bloggers (pdf), published today. They're stalking the larger universe of 12 million adult Americans who blog.

Who are all those bloggers? Why do they blog?

(...) The most immediately startling for me was the repetition of the phrases "about half " or "nearly half" to describe various blogger attributes. About half of all American bloggers are men, says Pew. About half are under the age of 30. About half use a pseudonym. About half say creative self-expression or documenting personal experiences is a major reason for blogging. About half think their audience is folks they already know. Half say changing people's minds is not a major reason behind their blog, and about half had never published before starting their blog. (The margin of error for the telephone survey was plus or minus 7 percentage points.)

Pew's blogging masses couldn't be more different than the American A-listers. Most A-listers are men over 30; have published before; are in it primarily to change public opinions and not to share their experiences; know only a fraction of their readers; and don't conceal their identities.

Continuing the Pew half-theme, we learn that about half the bloggers surveyed say they don't know anything about the size of their audience, and only 13 percent claim to get more than 100 hits a day.


(my emphasis)

Um... me? On this blog?

male? jep
under 30? nope
pseudonym? nope
audience already known? nope
creative self-expression? no, not really
documenting personal experiences? sometimes; not essential for me, at least so far
changing people's minds? well... yes, kind of
never published before? hmmm... nope
size of my audience? no idea (four? five?)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Guest Blogging: Was American independence a good thing?

Couple of days ago, commenter Don submitted the following comment to my Independence Day entry. For I consider it too thoughtful and elaborate to go unnoticed in the comment section of a week-old entry and because I want to show my appreciation for Don's efforts to keep this blog a two-way thing, I'm making his comment an entry of it's own:

Was American independence a good thing? Taken as a whole the answer is clearly yes, although many people would probably disagree.

Those who disagree might include some American Indians and some people of the EU, particularly French, Germans, Japanese, and perhaps the English, though the Polish, Danish, Dutch might not agree with them. But even among these peoples many would agree that US independence has been a good thing.

No new thing comes into the earth without consequences both positive and negative; the US is no exception to that. The emergence of the US eventually led to a diminuation of European influence and power which had varying negative effects as perceived by some Europeans, a fact that goes some way to explaining the strong strain of anti-Americanism which Europeans have harbored for a long time.

The French feel that the US has put their cultural influence in the shade, and the fact that the US probably saved France from defeat in WWI and liberated it in WWII seems to bear little weight with many French. Absent US intervention there is small doubt that Germany would have won WWI.

The very act of revolution which was the cradle of the American state was an offense to the British Empire - most particularly it's government, which then could best be described as being of, by, and for the aristocrats, gentry, Nabobs from India, and sugar plantation owners of the British Islands and the sugar islands of the Carribean.

Many modern 'scholars' argue that "Taxation Without Representation" had little or nothing to do with the revolution. They could not be more wrong; it had everything to do with it. The events of the 1760's and 1770's were occasioned by a fiscal crisis caused by deficit spending incurred by the UK in winning the Seven Years War of 1756-63, the first global war. This was exacerbated by a corrupt political system, the so-called 'Rotten Borough' system used in selectcing Parliament.

The wisest course in dealing with the fiscal and political crisis would have been political reform resulting in a representative Parliament possessing the political legitimacy to raise taxation on those who could best bear the burden (such as the sugar planters and nabobs from India). That could not be done because these people possessed major factions in the House of Commons and the King's govrnment depended upon them.

The British Crown instead sought to raise taxes on those who had no voice in the Commons - the North American colonies. Once the Crown's right to do so had been established those taxes would have soared and probably would have strangled the economies of the 13 colonies. It was this which drove the delegates of the Constitutional Convention to pledge "life, fortune, and sacred honor" to what was really a very desperate enterprise - taking on the most powerful monarchy on the earth with no assurance they would win. These men knew that if they lost and were captured by British forces they would be hung for treason and their families impoverished - yet they revolted anyway.

As we know they 'won'. Many of the signers lost everything in the ensuing war and very few grew richer except in the long term. Nevertheless the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the Constitution of 1789 created a new thing on the earth - a government based upon the suffrage of free men which granted no privilege to advanteges of birth nor allowed a state religion. It was not perfect; neither women nor slaves were allowed to vote. But those failings were ultimately made good and the idea itself exploded like a bomb on the world stage; most notably and violently in France.

The world has not been the same since. I would argue that it is the most significant political idea since the Roman Republic.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Chinese Foreign Students in the EU - and in the U.S.

While doing some research on Chinese graduates related to the previous entry, I came across this Chinaherald post (my emphasis; Wikipedia-Link added):

Chinese students want more work experience

European universities continue to report a dropping number of foreign students, a drop that is most clear among Chinese students. In Britain their number dropped 22.5 percent in 2005 compared to the year before.
Lack of the possibilities to obtain work experience is the major reason, warned the consul for education at the Chinese embassy in London, according to the Financial Times.


In Scotland and England limited work experience is possible, but elsewhere in Europe - especially in the so-called Schengen-countries - students have to leave right after graduation, making, greatly diminishing the value of the education in the eyes of the students. On the contrary, in the US at least one year of work experience is allowed after finishing a study.


Make sure to read the whole entry, including the comments from Australia and the Netherlands!

To insert a Mad Minerva stylish comment here: Just a big *SIGH*.

You can find more verbose information at the Auswaertiges Amt site and over at the EU site. The EU praises the Schengen Agreement as a cornerstone to create an Area of freedom, security and justice. Yo!

China Faces Employment Crisis

From the Worldwatch Institute (via China Digital Times)

China Faces Employment Crisis; Recent Graduates, Rural Migrants Among Hardest Hit

Despite record-shattering economic growth rates and swift industrialization, a major jobs crisis is brewing in mainland China, reports China Economic Weekly [article, Chinese]. The number of people entering the job market this year is expected to reach 17 million and the labor surplus could reach 14 million, according to an April report by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).


Over the last five years, the two major demographic groups entering the job market have been rural migrants and college graduates. Millions of new graduates now face limited employment options, and the likelihood of being unemployed or being forced to accept low-paid work is expected to only increase. According to China’s Ministry of Education, 4.13 million students will graduate from universities and colleges in 2006, 750,000 more than last year and three times the number in 2001.


Soccer World Cup Madness in China

The Washington Post has an article about the worldwide Soccer World Cup Madness, which puts China on the spot:

World Cup Final Kicks Up Frenzy Around Globe
Game Shows 'Soccer Is the Only Sport Which Makes the Whole World Crazy'

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 9, 2006; A12

BEIJING -- A taxi pulled up to the entrance of a leafy city park at 3 a.m. The car's radio crackled with the live broadcast of the World Cup semifinal between Germany and Italy as an announcer cried out in Mandarin the disappointment of a miss.

A few hundred yards away, another voice rose above the trees, mixing with the sound of cicadas.

This time, English blared from speakers in the center of the park as hundreds of Chinese and foreign fans settled in to watch the match on a huge screen. Chinese beer and Italian pizza were served, and a German fan hunched over, muttering, "Nein, nein, nein." Italy went on to beat Germany, 2-0, in overtime.

Even though the World Cup was in Germany this summer, and even though for the first time since 1982 it came down to an all-European final four, soccer fans around the globe have remained captivated by the matches, with millions intending to watch the final between France and Italy today.

"Except America, everyone else all over the world is watching the World Cup. For 20 years, we've been watching," said David Wang, 35, an information-technology manager who was rooting for Germany with his friends Tuesday night. "I've followed almost all the 3 a.m. games, it doesn't matter who, whoever plays best."


In China, which first aired a live soccer match in 1978, passions are strong. A commentator for China Central Television, Huang Jianxiang, apologized to millions of viewers after shouting, "Long live Italy," and, "I don't care about the Australian team," after the Italian team scored a last-minute goal to advance to the quarterfinals last month.

"Soccer is the only sport which makes the whole world crazy," said Sun Wen, a star on the national Chinese women's soccer team who reviews games for Shanghai's Xinmin Evening News. "During the World Cup, almost every light in every neighborhood is on. I remember clearly when I was young, in the early 1980s, so many neighbors crowded in the living room of one family who had a TV set just for a soccer game broadcast."

All month, Chinese fans have gone to bed early and set their alarm clocks for just before 3 a.m. to catch live broadcasts. Most Chinese watch from home, but thousands make a beeline for bars and restaurants.

"The Chinese have an unusual passion for football, even more than the Europeans," said Dario Magri, an Italian who used to coach and manage in Britain and was selling pizza to fans Tuesday. "The other night it was pouring with rain, and they were huddled under the umbrellas. I was on the bench for many years in England. Fans are passionate there, but here, they show the same passion watching it on the box in the middle of the night."

Professional soccer came to China in 1994, bringing exhibition matches and marketing dollars. Chinese players have gone to England to play with clubs such as Crystal Palace and Manchester City. In addition to the Summer Olympics in 2008, China also will host the women's World Cup next year.

"It's like a festival," said Zhang Jing, 26, a television producer who recalled that classmates mourned Italy's loss to South Korea four years ago. "We get to be wild; we get to be mad. I don't think Chinese people have a very outgoing personality, most of us, so it's great to get an opportunity to get away from the routine daily pressure."


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

The rest of the article gives glimpses from Saudi Arabia, India, Mexico and Baghdad.

My contributions re "Soccer World Cup and China" can be found here (quotes in English included) and here. In the latter post, I referred to Mr. Huang Jianxiang, the ... enthusiastic CCTV commentator.

Friday, July 07, 2006

China: Girl drowns self after hair code bans her

From Shanghai Daily:

Girl drowns self after hair code bans her: "LIKE it or not, some schools are very strict about dress code, hair cut and the importance of punctuality for class and exams. This rigid adherence to discipline can have deadly consequences. This was the case in the elite No. 7 Middle School in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province. On January 16, Wu Wenwen, a Junior Two student of Wenzhou No.7 Middle School, went to sit for the end-of-term Chinese exam. But the 16-year-old was barred because her hair was down, not pinned up. Her teacher, Qiu Xuemei, ordered her to leave and fix her hair. Half an hour later, Wenwen returned, her hair in order. But she was told the exam had started and she was too late to take it. Wenwen phoned her mother in tears, saying that she could get a zero in the final - and then she disappeared. Her body was found in a nearby lake. She left a 'good-bye' letter to her parents. After the 16-year-old's suicide, the grieving parents sued the school and educational bureau


A survey by the Zhejiang Health Education Institute says that over 13 percent of the students at primary and middle schools in the province have had suicidal tendencies.


I blogged about Chinese women and suicide last month over at B.L.O.G.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy Birthday, USA!

It's the first 4th of July in my carrier as self-proclaimed pro-American blogger and so I have to write something about it, right?. Then again, I'm pretty exhausted from watching the Germany vs. Italy semi-final of the FIFA soccer world cup, unhappy ending for Germany included.

Well, first of all: Happy Birthday, USA! And a happy 4th of July, y' all! I envy you to have your "National Day" in July. The NYT has the answer why (my emphasis; Wikipedia link added):

The signers of the Declaration of Independence had a lot on their minds, the least of which was our need, 230 years later, for a good midsummer holiday. The rhythms of our lives are awfully distant from the rhythms of theirs. But what you celebrate comes to depend, in time, on when you celebrate it. The Declaration was fundamentally a political event, a short, sharp document that made a powerful statement about human nature and human expectations. But the fact that it was dated July 4 guaranteed that in time, given the practical nature of Americans, it would be celebrated with hot dogs down by the lake while the sky erupted overhead.

And the NYT editorial also sums up what (in my opinion) is so special about this day (my emphasis):

The Fourth of July might seem like (...) a day to worry about the very real and practical matter of keeping our democracy alert, alive and undiminished. But this is also the best of days to admire the long continuity of our history, the profound American talent for compromise, the simple beauty of what endures. It's a good day to hope that every part of this country gets what it needs — a dry night in the Northeast, a long morning rain in the Rocky Mountain West, and truly thunderous fireworks in a clear sky just after dark.

I want to end this post with a pointer to a pointer: Daniel Drezner refuses to answer the question "[W]as American independence a good idea?", which is being discussed by Matthew Yglesias and Tyler Cowen, and he leaves the answer to Jefferson. Very clever, Dan ;-).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Meet Soccer Babe Angie

Ah, it's always good to see someone expressing my thoughts before I dare to blog. Whereas Mad Minerva is going wild about Germany's and Italy's advance into the FIFA soccer world cup semi-finals and states:

I enjoyed also watching the Kanzlerin cheering in the stands too.
James Forsyth over at Passport brings on the real point, by asking

why on earth did the Argentine coach take out his most dangerous player, Riquelme?
and taking a look behind the curtain of the boozed, flag-waving, car horn nation, which happens to be "my country":

But the more FP point I want to make is that Angela Merkel is as much a winner as the German team. Not only is Merkel getting great publicity with every Germany game (the TV cuts to her even more than it does to Posh Spice aka Mrs Beckham during England games), but she is also using the tournament to push through a series of controversial measures. The Times of London had a great article a few days ago about all the bills that Merkel is sneaking through while the public is captivated by the heroics of Ballack, Lehman[n] et al.
A quote from the above mentioned Times article (Merkel makes hay while Germans watch the play):

Political conflicts have barely flickered on to German television screens. The Upper House of parliament reluctantly gave the go-ahead to a 3 per cent increase in VAT last Friday — with some heavy-hitting regional barons voting against or abstaining. Normally there would have been a nationwide howl of protest — indeed, the mass circulation Bild called it the “biggest single tax rise in German history” — but the critical article, as Frau Merkel, the Chancellor, had calculated, was buried under a mountain of stories on the German football team. The big tabloid revolt fizzled out.

Little wonder, then, that ministers are now required to meet in the Chancellery every Sunday until the end of the World Cup to fine-tune other unpopular Bills that will quickly canter through parliament. Three key pieces of legislation are supposed to be wrapped up before the World Cup final on July 9.

Let's have a look at those key pieces:

First, a reform of the system redistributing power between central government and the regions.


Bundestag Passes Bumper Reform

The German parliament voted Friday to overhaul the federal system of government, marking the broadest change to the constitution since 1949 with what has been billed "the mother of all reforms".

Next key piece, please:

Second, the essentials of the health reform, a source of deep conflict between the governing partners, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, must be agreed before July.
Not settled yet (my emphasis):

Merkel changing her tune on taxes

Eight months into her term as chancellor, Angela Merkel is on the verge of raising taxes for the second time, in this case for a vast and bureaucratic health care system.

The proposal by her coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats envisions an expansion of the system to cover children that could cost taxpayers from €16 billion to €25 billion, or $20 billion to $31 billion.


Merkel came to office promising to cut taxes, reduce bureaucracy, and encourage competition and transparency.

But after spending several Sunday nights closeted in the chancellery with health experts from her conservative union and the Social Democrats, a plan is in the works that seems likely to create more bureaucracy at a higher cost to the government.

The decision has the makings of "bureaucratic monster," and an expensive one at that, said Winfried Fuest, economics professor at the Institute for the German Economy in Cologne.

Germany is beset by spiraling costs for medication, a declining birth rate and an aging population. All that is adding pressure on the health care system that insures 90 percent of German adults through 250 health care insurance companies, a system that eats up money with little accountability.

"There is absolutely no transparency in the way doctors charge patients in the public health system," said Fuest, whose institute is one of five economic research centers that advise the government. Nor is there transparency in the ties between drug companies and the doctors, he added.

Patients in the public system do not receive bills. Instead, the doctor is reimbursed through the patient's public insurance company. Conversely, in the private health insurance system, patients receive a bill that meticulously records the cost of each treatment.

But under the plan being fashioned, analysts say it is unlikely that the public health system will become more transparent and subject to competition.

The rest of the article is insightful as well! For more information about the German health care system, see:

German University Clinic Doctors End Strike, New One Looms

After a three-month health care workers' strike, university clinics in North Rhine-Westfalia resumed normal business on Monday. However, doctors at municipal hospitals are threatening to walk out.

Lid Lifted on Corrupt German Health Service

In its annual corruption report, Transparency International estimates that corruption costs Germany's healthcare system between 8 and 24 billion euros ($10 and 30 billion) a year.
Finally, the third key piece as mentioned in the Times article:

Third, the 2007 Budget has to be passed through parliament. At present it looks as if the extra VAT revenues will be largely swallowed up by the extra cost of labour reforms.
Labor reforms? What labor reforms? Oooooh, maybe that one:

SPD admits naivety in German labour reforms

Germany's Social Democrats yesterday admitted their landmark reform of long-term unemployment payments was poorly designed and acknowledged their naivety when they introduced the scheme that has since sent welfare costs skyrocketing.
I'm sorry but I can't enjoy cheering soccer babe Angie. Her "Iron Lady reloaded" reputation and her approval rates, skyrocketing like welfare costs, are as undeserved as Germany's victory against the best soccer team of this world cup. I cry for you, Argentina!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Bruce Springsteen - Old Dan Tucker (Live - Indianapolis)

This post is meant

a.) to establish a "immidiate-response-to-comments" doctrine for this blog (Dont't rely on it, though, as I change my doctrines on an almost daily basis.)

b.) to thank commenter Don for the pointer to "springsteen + seeger" - youtube vids and

c.) to try out youtube's "Blog Video" feature

(Update: It works! I only had to fix the entry title.)

My last Springsteen session was 17 years ago. Looks like "the boss" deserves a second chance.

In the video, Bruce Springsteen, addresses the audience in Indianapolis by saying:

We are few, but we are mighty!

Applies for this blog as well, me thinks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Flag Day With Johnny Cash

During my youtube-sessions with "johnny+cash"-videos, I came across an outstanding work featuring "Ragged Old Flag" by Johnny Cash. I decided to leave that one for the next U.S. Flag Day. Since my numerous calendar add-ons (U.S. edition) are telling me that today this day has come, here it is:

Ragged Old Flag

By John R. Cash, © 1974 House of Cash, Inc.

I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your old courthouse is kinda run down."
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town."
I said, "Your old flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that's a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it."

He said, "Have a seat," and I sat down.
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town?"
I said, "I think it is." He said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag.

"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing Say Can You See.
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Pakenham and Jackson tuggin' at its seems.

"And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on though.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag.

"On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II.
She hung limp and low by the time it was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam.
She was sent where she was by her Uncle Sam.

"She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land here she's been abused --
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused.

"And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more.

"So we raise her up every morning, take her
down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground and we fold
her up right.
On second thought, I do like to brag,
'Cause I'm mighty proud of the Ragged Old Flag."

By John R. Cash, © 1974 House of Cash, Inc.

And here is the youtube-video. Really a great job!

I really love this song. Isn't it like "American history in 3 minutes"? Let me end this post with JC in his own words (hat tip Steven Menke):

There was one [song], "Ragged Old Flag" that I didn’t even have any control over. It came out faster than I could write it down. You’ve heard of people who write song in ten minutes. "ragged Old Flag" was one of those songs.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Glimpse Of My World - Three Links From The Standard

Hi there!

I'm still up to my eyeballs in work, but this morning I came across three links in The Standard from Hongkong, which provide a glimpse of my world and the three countries this blog is meant to deal with in the first place (once I get my priorities straight - or my time management working):

Racism reports overblown, insists Merkel

German chancellor Angela Merkel has pleaded with tourists not to believe the hype about racism in Germany.

(As almost always with Merkel quotes: Don't hold your breath, folks!)

Hillary Clinton falling victim to her icy image

Five years ago, Al Gore was on his way to near-pariah status within the Democratic Party, scorned for losing the 2000 presidential election and then avoiding the public stage. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was the toast of the party.

(Al or Hillary? Between a rock and a hard place...)

Beijing airs fears on impact of growth

China has warned that its goals for economic growth are in direct conflict with environmental protection and said degradation is worsening despite official efforts to curb pollution.

(That's my story of the day. I wrote a piece about it (in German) over at Bissige Liberale, with more state owned links on that issue in English.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Q: Why do you hate us, Europe?

Being confronted with the kind of work load, I always wished to be buried under, blogging was light again lately. I should have blogged about Darfur, Angela "the Miracle" Merkel's visit to China, the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution and yes, immigration again, but well...Maybe tomorrow. (If you've ever been to China, you are probably used to this phrase.)

But this story is just too weird to let it go unblogged:

Germans ask why Europe hates them after Eurovision

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germans asked themselves on Monday why everyone in Europe seems to hate them after their entry to the Eurovision Song Contest ended up a dismal 15th place and got zero points from most European countries.

"Why does everyone dislike us?" asked Bild newspaper, Germany's best-selling daily on Monday, summing up the mood after the country's unusually strong entry "Texas Lightning" went in with hopes of winning but landed near the bottom.
Yes, BILD is certainly the right paper to ask why everyone hates us, for the BILD people are expressing their eternal love for all the other nations (especially those from Eastern Europe) on a daily basis.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung, center-left hotbed of sophisticated erudity, comes up with a very convincing explanation:

"It seems a good song is a hindrance to winning," wrote the Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Monday. "The typical Grand Prix song these days is a song that is so bad it's actually good again. So 'Texas Lightning' was simply too good, too intellectual."
Reuters UK has it's own take:

More than 60 years after World War Two ended, there is a sense among Germans that the country is still being penalised for the misdeeds of previous generations.
Noooo, not that kind of sinister piffle again. Imagine a soothsayer on, say, August 30, 1939, after a long chrystal ball session would've said: "Don't invade Poland! Just don't! Thing is, if you do, you will never ever win the Eurovision Contest. Oh, wait ... correction ... you will never ever win the Eurovision Contest apart from 1982." ... Wouldn't that have been a very good reason not to start WWII? (Okay, there were other good reasons, but hey, you never know, maybe this one would have turned out to be the most convincing one).

And the closing cliché:

The loud, aggressive behaviour that some intoxicated German tourists display when abroad has contributed to the European image of the "ugly German".
Says who? Reuters UK. UK! Ha!

Seriously, I am not convinced. I mean, c'mon, Europe let us down to vote for aggressive, obviously intoxicated monsters instead? I don't buy that.

To be honest, I missed the whole Eurovision thing completely until I was forced to watch the voting procedure at a birthday party. But Andrew seems to be a fan of the Eurovision show, so if you're interested, see his LiveBlogging over at German Joys: I, II, III, IV and V - and his final conclusion:

"That Eurovision contest was fun. I'm putting it on my calendar for the rest of my life."
For more background information, see this post at Atlantic Review and Mad Minerva's contest coverage.

Even she prefers the monsters. What a desaster for Germany! As for the corpus delicti: How on earth can someone expect to get any votes by singing "No, no never"? Or, in Mad Minerva's words

Singing a song called "No, no never" seems to be asking for defeat, doesn't it?
Exactly. Next year, we'll go for victory with a remake of "It ain't me, babe". Accidently, I found the vid on youtube, so here it is. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Some Remarks On Illegal Immigration

Mad Minerva is on fire - and rightly so:

all my relatives immigrated legally. All our friends did too, immigrating to America from all different countries, like Vietnam, South Korea, India, Taiwan, mainland China, Germany, Canada, etc. etc. They all followed the rules, obeyed the law, waited their turn, filed their paperwork, and did everything legally. Frankly, I think giving amnesty to millions of illegal immigants is an insult and a slap in the face to everyone who came to America legally. I am in favor of immigration -- legal immigration.

I've been following that issue mainly through German national public radio station Deutschlandfunk (DLF), which is taking heavily on this issue by airing about ten pieces a week about it. In my opinion, the coverage is mostly fair and balanced and provides solid background to let the audience judge for themselves.

There are only two points where some bias is involved: First, almost all German media coverage refers to the rallies as "Demonstrationen gegen U.S. Einwanderungspolitik" (rallies against U.S. immigration policy). This expression is mirrored in the U.S. media (and U.S. blogs as well!) coverage about "the failure of immigration policy in Europe". Both conceptions are wrong, and in both cases I tend to ask: "Immigration policy? What policy?"

Germany, for example, isn't experiencing a failure of a given immigration policy, but the consequences of an absence thereof.

And the U.S.? C'mon, do you really want to tell me that massive illegal immigration and failing border control should be labeled as a "policy"?

The second point is, that almost all German media are taking on "eine tiefsitzende Angst der Amerikaner vor den mexikanischen Einwanderern" (a deep-rooted anxiety towards the immigrants from Mexico), and by using that expression over and over again, it sounds like this "angst" is a.) foolish and b.) unjustified. This perception in some German media outlets doesn't apply exclusively to the U.S., but also to Germany: Xenophobia equals racism. End of story.

Now, let's take a closer look at those rallies: The rallies had hundreds of thousands participants. Most of the participants were illegal immigrants. (That's what it is all about, after all.) Some of them shouted aggressive slogans in Spanish. And they launched a lot of "demands".

Sorry, but I can't blame anyone being scared by a crowd of illegal foreigners shouting aggressive demands in a foreign language.

Yes, there seems to be a labor market problem in the U.S. But apart from the fact that Germany would be enthusiasticly happy with that kind of labor market problem: Is it really helpful to address this problem by breaking the law in the first place?

Adding another rant, illegal immigration comes in handy for some businesses in the U.S. in terms of wages, insurances etc. This morning, there was a DLF rally feature, in which an American citizen was quoted: "My husband is in the plastering business. His employer told him: 'If you don't wanna work for six bucks per hour, well, then I have a couple of Mexicans who want." What is more, illegal Mexican workers are easy to handle, no? Now, the illegal immigrants, among other things, demand the U.S. citizenship. This demand sounds like a perfect example of "digging your own grave" to me, because once the illegal immigrants are U.S. citizens, there will be no reason for their employers to further employ them.

Meanwhile in Germany, where btw Davids Medienkritik ones again caught German magazine STERN red-handed on confusing figures (People! To find a mistake in a STERN piece is as difficult as finding a GWB joke in an Jon Stewart appearance), the Deutsche Welle runs a story, claiming that "Illegals in Germany Face Similar Problems as Those in US". It's one of the most biased pieces I've come across lately, including the priceless sub-headline "Restricting illegal immigration harms the economy". Another priceless quote:

That is still the only way illegal immigrants can gain citizenship here -- to marry a German. Another option -- for women -- is to have a child with a German man.

Citizenship? Come again? Neither marriage nor a child with a German citizen does assure you a right of residence. It's been a while since I left this business (the illegal immigration lawyer business, that is), but back in the late 90's, cases like that went like this: eviction order, plus eventual deportation, plus denial of reentry for a couple of months or even years for the woman - and probably an investigation and a fine for the German. Citizenship? Forget about it for the next decade or so. Um, maybe the law situation has changed dramatically in favor of illegal immigrants and I simply failed to notice it.

After stating that

Many of the illegal immigrants who come to Germany have followed relatives who are now living legally in the country

the article concludes that

One would think the easiest solution would be to crack down on illegal aliens even more. But like in the United States, the demand for them is great.

To compare the U.S. and Germany here is to compare apples and oranges. Whereas the U.S. illegal immigration problem is about work force immigrants from neighboring countries who want to stay permanently, the illegal immigration Germany is challenged by consists of relatives of legal immigrants, mostly of foreign citizenship, refugees and declined asylum seekers and temporary (!) labor migrants, mostly from eastern Europe. And even labor migrants from Africa, of which it can't be said for how long they'll stay in Germany, are different from the illegal immigrants in the U.S.: they are not supported by influencial groups, they don't build visible communities, they don't demonstrate or file demands by using their native language, and they don't show any interest of becoming citizens.

Above all: Germany's problem is not illegal immigration. It's illegal employment, due to our overly regulated labor market.


Here we go. From the Berliner Tagesspiegel (hat tip Ulrich Speck):

Das Deutschland der Möglichkeiten

Weniger Sozialhilfe und mehr Lebenschancen für Einwanderer: Ein Blick nach Amerika täte der Integrationsdebatte gut

(very loosely: The Germany of Choices - Less social welfare and more opportunities for immigrants: America can teach us a lesson) The Google translation of this article sounds rather err... strange to me, but I'm optimistic that Davids Medienkritik will come up with a proper translation ;-).

Update (May 3, 2006)

On a related note: Old member states remain split over easing labour access

Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain have decided to open up their labour markets to EU-8 citizens. However, the Union's strongest economies continue to keep their restrictions in place.


For the next three years, the EU's strongest economies will remain partly or fully closed to workers from the EU-8 states. Austria, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands will continue to keep their doors closed to job hunters from Eastern Europe (the Dutch may ease the restrictions by 2007). Meanwhile, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain have decided to adopt the EU's open-border policy. (...)