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April 2007
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June 2007

Criminal Justice: Eternally, Internationally Perfect

Death penalty supporter Antonin Scalia, United States, 2006:

One cannot have a system of criminal punishment without accepting the possibility that someone will be punished mistakenly. That is a truism, not a revelation. But with regard to the punishment of death in the current American system, that possibility has been reduced to an insignificant minimum.

[Source: Scalia's opinion in the Supreme Court case Kansas v. Marsh]

Death penalty supporter Fritz Neumayer, Free Democrat Party, Germany 1950:

Against arguments concerning the possibility of judicial error and the irreparability of an improper execution, [Neumayer] pointed to the fact that the assistance provided by science and criminal statistics was so far advanced that the possibility of an wrongful conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence could only be anticipated in extremely rare cases.

[Source: Paraphrase of Neumayer's arguments during a parliamentary debate on the re-introduction of the death penalty in Germany]

Death penalty supporter Johann von Kloreiniger, Wiesensteig, Germany, 1563:

Verily I do say and atteste, that the Possibilitie that any Person has been put to Death for the horrid Crime of being a Witch, although they were not such, is now but a Trifle. The carefull and scientifick Manner in which we Compelle the Foul Beastes of the Devil to Confess their Hideous Crimes against Nature, using Thumbscrews, Half-Drowning, and Hot Pincers, combined with the Guidance of Divine Providence, permits us to exclude all Doubte Before Ordaining the Drawinge & Quarteringe of these Shamefull and Repulsive Whores of Satan.

[Source: The Astonishinge and Truthfulle Account of My Humble Years of Service as Chief Publick Prosecutor to my Most Noble and Righteous Lord the Margrave of Southeasterne Bavaria, as Invented and dutifullie Transcribed by Andrew von Hammell, Esq.]

I'm Number 105!!

From this post by media journalist Stefan Niggemeier (G) I learn 2 things. 

  • Many people in the conventional German media are frightened of blogs, condescend to them, and do not understand even basic aspects of their operation. Thus, they keep confusing blogs which receive 500 visits per day with ones that receives 500 visits per month. Boy is that dumb and naive.
  • A blog that gets more than 450 hits per day counts as one of the top 100 German blogs. Boy is that low.

My ramshackle little online home, with its never-updated reading list, chaotic blogroll, and laughably crude formatting, scrapes by at between 420 hits per day from the world's smartest, best-looking blog readers (after a rambling post about Norbert Elias) and 500 hits per day from the world's smartest, best-looking blog readers (after I mention Knut the Eisbaer or Britney Spears).

This means pitiful little German Joys is scraping around at the bottom of the list of the top 100 German blogs. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this fact.

The Heintje Never Stops

It's official. If I die, one line of my obituary will read "In 2005, Hammel unwittingly created an online forum for people who love the 1970s German child star Heintje. This turned out to be his most significant contribution to public discourse."

No other post has gathered such a consistent and varied stream of worldwide comments as my ruminations (rather rude ones, I might add) on Heintje.

In a desperate bid for more website hits, and to help Judith the Heintje fan, let me promote the latest Heintje comment to the main page of this blog.

Hi Heintje fans

Heintje cds can be found on

I have been trying to find a dvd of his film "Ich sing ein lied fur dich" which I saw at the cinema in Hong Kong in 1970.

Does anybody know where I can find one?


Go visit the post to find Judith's email, and help her re-live her fond memories. 

One question: What on earth was a Heintje movie doing playing in Hong Kong?

Yanqui Hijo de Puta, Fuera del Mundo!

Eagle 'Why does the rest of the world hate us?' Americans ask, with large, moist, puppy-dog eyes. (Well, it's really more distrust and suspicion than hate).

Many Americans prefer to blame it solely on resentment and anti-American manipulation. There's some of that around, of course, but that's not the whole story. I recently read Anatol Lieven's blistering, largely on-target America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism, which details plenty of rational reasons why non-Americans might distrust or resent the United States (hint: it's the policies and the hypocrisy, stupid!).

Before I get to that, thought, I thought I'd address a more mundane reason why people don't fancy Americans: Americans are renowned worldwide as being unusually ignorant and judgmental of other cultures. We don't understand other cultures, and what's more, we don't want to understand them, and what's even more, we show that openly. When we encounter some cultural practice that is different from what's done in the United States, we tend to immediately call attention to it -- and often by suggesting, more or less openly, that it be scrapped and replaced with the "right" American way of doing things.

Americans climb into our cultural (or rather, acultural) Hummers, you could say, and blithely drive them through other nations' minefields, completely oblivious to the explosions we cause along the way. A recent example: During a recent dinner I attended, an American new to Germany blurted out to a German guest "Hey, you're a German, maybe you can answer this. What the hell was Hitler thinking?!"

Trust me, it's one of just dozens of indiscretions I've either observed or committed. You could defend this tendency to openly criticize other cultures as refreshing frankness, but people from other nations have much less complimentary words for it. Let me quote from a fine little book called Americans at Work: A Guide to the Can-Do People, written by intercultural consultant Craig Storti. Storti himself is from the Unites States, but has spent over two decades working all over the world:

"[N]ot believing in culture [in the sense of ingrained, traditional ways of doing things] means that Americans have a hard time accepting that there is any legitimate reason -- any "excuse" for the odd way foreigners sometimes behave, and they conclude, therefore, that all such behavior is simply arbitrary. The strange things foreigners do may be deliberate or accidental, conscious or unconscious, but the point is they don't have to act that way...

Americans are much more likely than other nationalities to be unprepared for and therefore to have a strong reaction to "different" behavior, more likely, in other words, to be surprised, confused, or irritated by some of the "odd" things you [i.e., a non-American] may do. They may also be less able to see things from your point of view and less willing, as a result, to listen to your explanation of things or to understand why you don't agree with them. They are more likely than colleagues from other countries to see you as stubborn and unreasonable.

I can't exempt myself from this accusation. Although I like to think I've become much more polished in the meantime, I still have episodes in which foreign habits and practices strike me as "wrong." Now let me say that some things -- like honor killings, puking all over the city center, or mixing beer with cola -- are wrong, in some cosmic, transcendental sense. But among many Americans I know who live abroad, there is embarrassingly little curiosity about foreign cultures, and much superficial, chauvinistic criticism. I know this because I occasionally hang around with expatriates, whose primary form of recreation seems to be bitching endlessly about their host countries whenever they can be sure no natives are around (and sometimes, when natives are around). My experience has taught me there really is a difference -- the difference Storti identifies -- between Americans and people from other nations.

Continue reading "Yanqui Hijo de Puta, Fuera del Mundo!" »

Bavaria will Rise Again!

Now, I tend to like most of the Bavarians I meet, but there's no denying Bavaria is a special place.

Here's an example. In 1949, when the German post-war constitution (called the Grundgesetz or Basic Law) came into force, the Bavarian state parliament voted against it by 101 to 64. The Chairman of the Bavarian Party then wrote an article called "The Freedom Struggle is Beginning" in the newspaper Die Welt, in which he announced: "The act of rape emanating from [the German capital of] Bonn is, for us, not a Basic Law but rather a Rubbish Law [Grundgesetz / Schundgesetz]. This sorry effort begins the socialization, centralization, and Russification of the German states..."

Practical Tips for Black Hole Explorers

Apropos nothing in particular, this fascinating article, which tells you how to maximize your remaining time if you accidentally cross the event horizon of a black hole:

Falling into a black hole is a strange affair. Because the hole's gravity distorts space-time, a far-off observer watching an object crossing the event horizon sees time for that object appear to slow down — a clock falling into a black hole would appear, from the outside, to tick ever slower. At the horizon itself, time stops, and the object stays frozen there for the remaining lifetime of the Universe.

But this isn't how things seem to the in-falling object itself. Indeed, if the black hole is big enough, nothing noticeable happens when a spaceship crosses its event horizon — you could stray inside without realizing. Yet once inside, nothing can save you from being crushed by the hole's gravity sooner or later.

Muslims in the U.S. Reasonably Content

According to the International Herald Tribune, there are 2.35 million Muslims in the United States and on the whole, they're pretty well-integrated:

As a whole, the poll found a largely content and hard-working U.S. Muslim population, and one that is fast assimilating.

Though 4 in 10 have arrived since 1990, a large proportion say their closest friends are non-Muslims. Their incomes are close to the national average. Even more than the general public, they say they believe that by working hard they can get ahead.

Eight in 10 said they were "very happy" or "pretty happy" with their lives. But young American Muslims - those under 30 - were more accepting of extremism. They were far more likely than their older counterparts to see themselves as Muslims first rather than as Americans first.

Black Americans who are Muslim converts, however, are more disaffected and more likely to endorse extremism than immigrant Muslims.