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Socialist Takes Over (a Tiny Part of) America

Congratulations to the State of Vermont, which just elected the United States' first-ever sBernie_sandersocialist senator, Bernie Sanders:

"Bernard Sanders (I) [Independent] is the first self-proclaimed socialist to become a U.S. senator. The eight-term congressman, known to voters as Bernie, ran on a populist platform, promising to empower farmers, veterans, the elderly and the indigent. [...]

While campaigning, Sanders told reporters that the United States should learn from the democratic socialist models in Northern Europe."

Appropriately, Sanders' opponent was a "near-billionaire" businessman who a ctually did call Sanders a "red." You can visit Sanders' website,, here. Don'Vermont_1t miss the socialist video game. Who says they're all humorless radicals?

Vermont is sort of like the Saarland of the USA, so don't read too much into this story...

Petty, Reliable Petty Officials

Otto Hinze drops a Wilhelmine truth bomb:

"The discipline of the military, with its habituation to order and punctuality, in promptness in obeying orders and precision in appearance, is an outstanding school for the lower grades of officialdom, among whom reliability is more important than intelligence."

Otto Hinze (historian), 1911, as quoted in Reihnhard Kühnl, Die Weimarer Republik (2d. ed. 1993).

European Coverage of the Iraq War

The folks over at Atlantic Review quote an assessment of the Globalist: the American media shows "an increasing unwillingness to tell hard truths when it really matters." The Globalist was writing in 2005 -- now, I'd say the tendency is increasing.

Still, having followed coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan in the German, French, and American press, I'd say that reports about the Iraq war in the European press are notably more detailed and more unvarnished than in the U.S. press. A few examples among dozens I could cite. A report like CBS correspondent Lara Logan's -- on the vicious battle for Haifa Street in Baghdad -- was not broadcast on American television because the producer deemed it "too graphic for an evening news audience." I've seen more graphic reports on mainstream European TV stations. In December, the German magazine Stern (if I recally correctly) featured a long article about an American soldier who was grievously burned in Iraq, complete with several large color photos of his reconstructed body and face. This morning, I heard, on German public radio, a voice from a recent American anti-war rally in which a mother talked about taking delivery of the body of her son, "with some of its parts missing, and burned to charcoal." I doubt that soundbite made the television news in the U.S.

Continue reading "European Coverage of the Iraq War" »

Non-Bear Shaped Gummi Bears

Sex toys have been a topic on this blog before, albeit in the context of taxation. Now they're back: a trip to the store turns into a journey of erotic self-discovery when Harald Martenstein discovers (G) that his local department store now sells sex toys.

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Harald Martenstein discovers an “erotic goods” section in the department store

I’m not really a lady. That’s why I rarely visit the ladies’ underwear department in the Karstadt department store. However, it came to pass one day that I got lost. I wanted to go to the CD section. Do not buy the so-called new Beatles CD Love, by the way, it’s horrible. I didn’t find the CD-section. Instead, I was suddenly standing before a gigantic, knobby dildo. The term dildo denotes a stylized recreation of the male reproductive organ. It is designed for leisure pursuits. There are ones with and without motors, just like with boats and two-wheelers. I explain the word because once, when I was a young man, I had to admit at a party that I didn’t know the word, and that was embarrassing. I actually thought “dildo” was that large, extinct Australian bird. It also wouldn’t be such a bad name, when you come to think of it. Dildo DiCaprio. Dildo Jetengine. Suddenly it came to be that if Ildikó von Kürthy tried to pep up a Franz Kafka novel with sex scenes, you would have something that would be about as patchy as the Love CD.

Continue reading "Non-Bear Shaped Gummi Bears" »

Nothing to See Here, Folks, Move Along

As I've noted before, the 9/11 conspiracy-theory movement is alive and well in Europe, and one meets plenty of seemingly rational people over here who are much too sophisticated to be suckered in by the "official version" of 9/11. (Not that they have any particularly convincing "unofficial" version to counter it with, see below).

The headquarters of the movement is in the USA, but Germany boasts its fair share of these folks, whether they're the LIHOP or MIHOP variety. Matt Taibbi met one of the most colorful of them, Nico Haupt, recently:

Over a month after I first wrote a column slamming the 9/11 Truth movement, I continue to get hate mail in massive quantities. A group of Truthers even picketed my office, and I'm still picking food particles out of my scarf after an incident in which the movement's house lunatic, a wild-eyed German blogger named Nico Haupt, tried to goad me into slugging him in a West Side diner.

"Go ahead, heet me, then I haf beeg story!" he roared, scream-spitting half-digested detritus in my face.

Continue reading "Nothing to See Here, Folks, Move Along" »

Lipset on American Exceptionalism

American sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset died on January 4 at the age of 84. One of his principal themes was American exceptionalism: the idea that the history of the United States is qualitiatively different from the history of almost all all other nations. One of the most obvious and intriguing proofs of this exceptionalism is that the United States' political system, unlike all other developed countries and many less-developed ones, has never given rise to a mainstream mass socialist party.

Although he moved rightward during his life, he avoided patriotic chest-beating; his interest lay in explaining America, not exulting in it. I've often thought that every foreign journalist who writes about the United States should be required to read Lipset's 1996 work American Exceptionalism: The Double-Edged Sword. The book would teach them that they are entering a country whose culture differs from Europe's culture, and which does not want to, and will never, become Europe. This lesson, in turn, might reduce the number of tiresome opinion pieces European journalists write which scold the United States for flagrantly, obstinately failing to be Europe.

Here are a paragraphs that convey the flavor of Lipset's work:

America continues to be qualitatively different. To reiterate, exceptionalism is a two-edged phenomenon; it does not mean better. This country is an outlier. It is the most religious, optimistic, patriotic, rights-oriented, and individualistic. With respect to crime, it still has the highest rates; with respect to incarceration, it has the most people locked up in jail; with respect to litigiousness, it has the most lawyers per capita of any country in the world, with high tort and malpractice rates. It also has close to the lowest percentage of the eligible electorate voting, but the highest rate of participation in voluntary organizations. The country remains the wealthiest in real income terms, the most productive as reflected in worker output, the highest in proportions of people who graduate from or enroll in higher education (postgrade 12) and in postgraduate work (post-grade 16). It is the leader in upward mobility into professional and other high-status and elite occupations, close to the top in terms of commitment to work rather than leisure, but the least egalitarian among developed nations with respect to income distribution, at the bottom as a provider of welfare benefits, the lowest in savings, and the least taxed. And as I elaborate in the chapters that follow, the positive and the negative are frequently opposite sides of the same coin.

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Langage Texto

So on Tuesday I'm in French class, which is held in a building called, believe or not, Palais Wittgenstein. The teacher is the sylphlike, aloof Nicole (not not her real name), one of the most  attractive 5*-somethings I've ever seen. We're currently studying a unit on how elderly French people use the Internet. Even Nicole apologizes for how soul-pulverizingly boring it is. But it's the next unit in the book we're using.

During a radio feature about actual old French people, we hear them complain about all the "langage texto" they see on the Internet. I ask what "langage texto" is. Turns out it's the French phrase for SMS-speak: C U l8r, C U 2morrow, etc. Yesterday, a friend told me that France has the most advanced langage texto in the world. Apparently, it's a structural thing: lots of French letters sound like French syllables, lots of French numbers sound like French syllables or words, lots of French words sound like other, longer French words. Examples are K7 (for "cassette"), or "o" for "eau,"

Here's a list of hundreds of langage texto words. There's even, apparently, a novel (F) written in langage texto.

Could this be the new Esperanto? Will there one day be a "Langage Texto Strasse", just as there is now an Esperantostrasse? [No, you dumbass, because it only makes sense in French. - ed.]

My Take on Markovits

Looks like my link to the Markovits essay has become one of the most-commented posts this blog has ever seen. I've gone through them with interest. Of all the views posted, I guess my take is the most similar to Koch's. Koch doesn't seem to be American, so perhaps Germans are more free with their comments to him than they would be with someone whom they know to be an American. In any case, because I criticize the policies of the Bush Administration (and was doing so before 60+% of the American public started doing the same thing), I often get an "unvarnished" view as well.

I have seen not only an increase in anti-Americanism recently, but what I would call a shift in its basic nature. Anti-Americanism of one form or another has, as we all know, been around since long before the U.S. was even founded as a nation.

However, it's now characterized by certain overtones that were much more rare before 2003. Now, I am not talking about what prominent German politicians and business leaders say. As Markovits points out, they will always call for better U.S.-German relations, and will often make claims about the state of those relations that look rather unrealistic from the ground. Here are the overtones I hear in conversations with ordinary Germans:

  1. We don't really care what the state of U.S.-Europe relations is. If they're bad, it's not because of anything we did. And if they're bad; so be it.
  2. The number of areas of profound disagreement has increased to the point where we can say that many of our basic values are different from Americans'.
  3. This situation is not an exceptional situation that will be remedied by a return to the "norm" of close U.S.-Europe relations anytime soon, if ever. Nothing in particular needs to be done about it (see #1).

As Koch points out, 2003 was a very bad year, but in some respects, 2004, when a slim majority of the American people returned George W. Bush to office, was dramatically worse. That's when "the American People" seemed, to Europeans, to declare their ownership and approval of Bush's policies. The anger and resentment seemed to quadruple overnight. In 2003, the U.S. and Europe were going through a rough patch in their "marriage." Now, they have separated and are headed for an amicable divorce. When the kids (reporters, the public) are around, of course, they'll still try to put a brave face on things.

Otherwise things are icy. Markovits help explain why this is so by pointing out another important dynamic: from a European perspective, anti-Americanism is now both much more practicable than it was, say, 20 years ago. It's even desirable and useful from a European perspective.

Continue reading "My Take on Markovits" »

German Joys Uncut: Michael Buback on RAF Terrorism

The debate about the possible early release of RAF terrorists Brigitte Mohnhaupt and Christan Klar intensifies. One recent contribution is an essay in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung written by Michael Buback. He is the son of Siegfried Buback, former Attorney General of Germany, who was murdered by RAF terrorists in 1977. The piece is called (in my translation) Debate about Strange, Distant Murderers (G). My translation, presented complete and unedited, appears below.

Debate About Strange, Distant Murderers

Why it is almost unimportant for a survivor whether an RAF terrorist remains in custody or is freed. An essay by Michael Buback, the son of Attorney General Siegfried Buback, murdered in 1977.

It is entirely proper that relatives of the victims do not participate in decisions on clemency for murderers. My essay could actually be limited to this one sentence. If, however, I write further, I do so because I have been repeatedly implored to give a detailed statement of my position and because I belong to the ever-diminishing group of people who still have strong memories of the events of 30 years ago.

To be sure, one hardly needs an especially good memory here. The event is chiseled into my memory, as it surely is with most people who have lost relatives to crime.

One particularity of the killing of my father is that those who murdered him and two members of his retinue, Georg Wurster and Wolfgang Göbel, did not know their victims personally.  They defined the Attorney General as evil by virtue of his function in a state that they rejected and hated. In thier blind fanaticism, fathomless arrogance, and extreme cruelty, they chose him for death according to their perverted standards, along with members of his security detail just as innocent as he.

The Assassination was Aimed at the State

The assassination was primarily aimed at the Federal Republic of Germany, whose leading criminal-justice officials were marked to be “blown away” by the terrorists. Perhaps the terrorists’ hate for this Attorney General was increased by the fact that he recognized the enormous dangers of terrorism early (which one would, of course, expect from an official with so much experience in the investigation of crimes against the state) and gave clear warning of the possible dangers.

Later events show how correct his warnings were. We now see the ubiquitous threat of terrorism almost daily in news programs. We are confronted with the consequences of terrorist violence every time we board a plane. Leading politicians in free, democratic countries are forced to live subject to intensive security measures.

They must often work in areas screened-off from the public, behind security fences and protective walls. Sometimes, in fact, the buildings from outside are so fortress-like that they resemble buildings intended for prisoners. The fact that there are ever more terrorists whose fanaticism drives them to take their own lives in addition to those of strangers makes the planning and execution of measures against terrorist brutality especially difficult.

Continue reading "German Joys Uncut: Michael Buback on RAF Terrorism" »