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 "GraƟ" 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.