‘German Bodies at Work’

Today’s lesson in soccer history dates back to 1978, and is known in German as the Disgrace of Cordoba (g).  Germany and Austria met in the early rounds of the World Cup in Argentina.  Germany, as reigning world champion, was the obvious favorite against Austria, which had gone 47 years without a victory against its neighbor.  To the horror of German football fans, the Austrians won 3-2, sending the German team packing.

Relive the fateful duel in this short videoclip (sorry, German only), in which two Argentinian sports announcers "of German heritage," who landed in that beautiful South American nation in 1945 seeking freedom and opportunity among friends with a similar kind of vibrant national feeling.  After reading the euphoniously Teutonic names of the players, one announcer remarks "truly, the ‘German’ team here has no opponent!"

[h/t Ralf]

The Stupid is Starting

If you’re like millions of typical Americans, this stuff is pretty important to you:

Sen. Barack Obama’s refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin along with a photo of him not putting his hand over his heart during the National Anthem led conservatives on Internet and in the media to question his patriotism.

Now Obama’s wife, Michelle, has drawn their ire, too, for saying recently that she’s really proud of her country for the first time in her adult life.

Conservative consultants say that combined, the cases could be an issue for Obama in the general election if he wins the nomination, especially as he runs against Vietnam war hero Sen. John McCain.

Here, we see conservatives releasing trial balloons into the air to see what sorts of innuendo are most likely to turn ignorant, gullible voters against Obama.  They’ll try another one every few weeks or so until they get a good combination of 3-4 mutually-reinforcing memes (possible examples: unpatriotic, thinks he’s smarter than you, hates/distrusts the military, spent time studying Islam) that do the most damage to Obama’s reputation.

Then, all summer and fall, dozens of groups will pour billions of dollars into coordinated, massive nationwide ad campaigns on these themes.  One pro-Bush group alone reports having collected a quarter-billion dollars to help finance this effort.

This thing is a long way from over.

Prizes as Hysterical Love-Making

Jonathan Littell on winning (g, my translation) the 2006 Prix Goncourt for his novel Les Bienveillantes:

You received the Prix Goncourt.

Unfortunately.  I did everything I could to prevent that.

But you did not accept it.

I didn’t want it.

Why not? Why reject a prize that so many of your colleagues yearn for?

I don’t think prizes have anything to do with literature.  They have to do with marketing, not literature.  I don’t like that.

But it’s a prestigious prize, well-endowed.  You could live well in Barcelona with that money.

I came to Barcelona before the prize.  The money is nice, but I don’t like the competition, all this crap.  People who are interested in that care more about their social status than art.

Robert Musil, on prize ceremonies in general:

We have a history of great men, and we regard it as an institution that belongs to us, just like prisons or the army; having it means we have to have people to put into it.  And so, with a certain automatism inherent in such social needs, we always pick the next in line and shower him with the honors ripe to be handed out.  But this veneration is not quite sincere; at its base lies the gaping, generally accepted conviction that there is really not a single person who deserves it, and it is hard to tell whether the mouth opens to acclaim someone or to yawn.  To call a man a genius nowadays, with the unspoken gloss that there is really no longer any such thing, smacks of some cult of the dead, something like hysterical love making a great to-do for no other reason than that there is no real feeling present.

The Man without Qualities, Vol I, p. 322 (Wilkins / Pike translation).

Berlin Backs Barack Meeting, Feb. 27th, Berlin

Don’t miss the social event of late Winter in Berlin, Berlin Backs Barack! 

It’ll be an informal gathering of Americans, and non-Americans to share information, drink, donate money (but not, alas, The Foreigners), drink, and talk about the presidential candidacy of this wholesome, God-fearing family man:


Look at them!  So caring and sensitive!  So playful and affectionate!  How could you not want them him to win?*

I’ll be there with bells on, so if you want to finally deliver that spittle-flecked tirade about the Trilateral Commission to me in person, now’s your chance!  Event details, including maps and opportunities to accept the invitation are here.  If you’re too lazy to click through, here is the basic info:

Time: Wednesday, February 27 at 7:00 PM

Location: Cafe Aedes, Hackesche Höfe, Berlin

Rosenthalerstrasse 40/41
Hackesche Höfe
10178 Berlin

S-Bahn to Hackescher Markt, Court (Hof) II of the Hackesche Höfe

* Apparently the latest meme in the German media is that Obama’s campaign is a sinister / empty cult of personality.  This may be due by the fact that, unlike 93% of American politicians and 96.4% of European politicians, Obama actually delivers speeches that large numbers of ordinary humans who are not employed by or related to him listen to and enjoy.  In the conspiracy-cankered minds of some Europeans, Obama plans to sweep to power in wave of mass adulation and desperate, savior-seeking hysteria before implementing his sinister secret agenda.

As exciting as that would undoubtedly be, the reality’s a bit more mundane.  Obama’s ability to inspire people is called ‘charisma’.  And he’s issued dozens of detailed proposals for what he’d do if elected.  Read them here, if you wish.  None involves mandatory midnight torchlight marches, agricultural collectives, or secret underground prisons.  (OK, except for Pamphlet #21, "Duties and Responsibilities of Membership in the American Volksgemeinschaft.")

The Intimate Apparel of Righteousness

Six Guantanamo prisoners are soon to be put on trial before U.S. military tribunals for potentially capital crimes in Guantánamo Bay. 

What sort of trials are they going to get?  According to Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo’s military commissions:

"[Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time," recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, which had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes’s] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals. We’ve got to have convictions.’"

Fair_trial_my_arse_2What can you do about this sorry state of affairs?  Buy underwear, of course!  Reprieve UK, a nonprofit which is representing some of the detainees, has recently entered the "intimate apparel" business, according to Legal Director Clive Stafford-Smith:

Along with our allies at the lingerie designers Agent Provocateur, we developed a line of intimate apparel in Guantanamo orange, with "Fair Trial My Arse" emblazoned across the derrière.

The underpants cost £35, which is a small price to pay not only for justice, but for transparent underwear (trust me on this!) [h/t JR]

A Critical Commentary to German Criminal Law?

Hey there, it’s me with another bleg.  This time it’s an obscure legal bleg, so if doctrinal analysis of German criminal law doesn’t interest you, feel free to stop reading now.

For the 4 of you who are still reading, the bleg is this: A friend of mine is currently doing some research on criminal-law reform for a small, charming country, and would like to learn something about German criminal law.  He can read German, and was interested in reading commentary on the German Strafgesetzbuch from a variety of perspectives.  I’ve sent him links to the big, mainstream commentary, but does anyone happen to know of a kritische Kommentar, something that’s perhaps a little out-of-the-mainstream and independent/left?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Krautrock of the First Water

I note with delight that Krautrock pioneers CAN are releasing remasters of their legendary 1970s albums:

Spoon Records, in collaboration with Warner Music (for Germany/ Austria/ Switzerland) and Mute/ EMI Records London (for the rest of the world, excluding Japan), is releasing remastered versions of the classic CAN albums. Included are exclusive unseen photos from the time and new sleeve notes.

The albums were all remastered from the original master tapes and were overseen and attended by Holger Czukay, Irmin Schmidt and Jono Podmore, so that they finally sound on CD how they were always intended to sound. These releases follow the recent success of the DVD release, CAN DVD, which marked the 35th anniversary of the founding of the group.

I’ve picked up a few so far at zweitausendeins, and they sound fabulous.  If you’re looking to cheaply dip your toe into the most accessible (but really not the most exciting) part of CAN’s oeuvre, you can’t go wrong with a CD called The Legendary CAN, which costs only 3 Euro at your local zweitausendeins store.

German Journalists Scooped Again?

Now this is what I call news.  A man from Liechtenstein, the tiny tax haven whose bank-secrecy laws are the scourge of Northern Europe, sold the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND (the German intelligence agency) a CD with the names and detailed account information of potentially hundreds of Germans who have, allegedly, opened accounts in Liechtenstein’s banks to hide wealth from the tax man.  The BND, we read, paid 4.2 million Euro for the data.

The information is supposedly detailed and reliable; dozens of alleged tax evaders and some accountants have reportedly already confessed.  And now we read in the German media (g) that the Wall Street Journal has revealed the name of the man at the center of the affair.  You can also find his name, if you wish, by accessing the WSJ’s Europe-edition website. 

My question is this: why do we have to read his name in an English-language news source?  There would seem to be only two explanations.  First, German journalists were scooped (that is, another newspaper beat them to the story).  Among Anglo-American journalists, getting scooped by another newspaper is a deep humiliation — especially if it’s a foreign newspaper that scoops you  in your own backyard, so to speak.

The second possibility is that German journalists knew his name, but declined to publish it on privacy grounds.  German newspapers usually don’t publish the full names of people who are involved in embarrassing scandals.

If this is a scoop, then it’s yet another data-point in favor of the thesis that German journalists spend far too much time:

(1) sharing with us their personal opinion on various topics ("Executives make too much money!" "The smoking ban is puritanism!" "Obama is wonderful!" "Butterflies are pretty!") ; and

(2) acting as stenographers for the rich and powerful ("politician A said she was ‘outraged’ by politician B’s comment that he was ‘disgusted’ by the ‘irresponsible’ statements politician C made about the Weimar Republic during his hotly-contested re-election campaign!")

and too little time:

(1) building a network of contacts of reliable informants in government and private industry;

(2) leaving their comfy offices to go to various parts of Germany to interview people who are willing to talk; and

(3) fearlessly publishing information that may embarrass the powerful, reveal corruption, show the failure of government policies, and/or spur reform.

Note that I’m not tarring all German reporters here, some of them, like the ones who wrote this revealing book (g) are doing what journalists should do — calling the powerful to account.  But far too many are, frankly, just chuntering on inconsequentially, and apparently missing big stories right under their noses.

The World Wants Obama

As I found out this weekend, Europeans are obsessed with Barack Obama, mostly because they desperately want him to win in 2008.  They are also almost completely ignorant of John McCain, and generally don’t understand his strengths as a candidate.  But it’s not just Europeans, ‘The World Wants Obama’ too (h/t ZaA):

The global community is more interdependent than ever before and the next resident of the White House will make decisions that that affect us all. Whether you live in Brighton, Baghdad, Buenos Aires or Bangkok, this matters.

We cannot vote in the 2008 US elections, but if we could we’d back Obama. Why? We want an America that:

– lives up to the principles it preaches;

– listens rather than lectures;

– conserves rather than consumes;

– makes peace rather than war;

– inspires hope everywhere.

Not a bad idea, creating grass-roots support for candidates in other countries. I plan to register www.nongermansforholgerapfel.eu soon, unless someone beats me to it…

Stealing Art in Europe

Cyrus Farivar asks:

Why is it so easy to steal art in Europe?

Smaller galleries and no guns. Europe has an especially high concentration of world-class art collections, many of which are housed in modest institutions. The art in Zurich was housed in a 19th-century villa, as opposed to a large-scale museum with a complicated entrance. Further, most security personnel in European museums aren’t armed, mostly due to a culture of openness and trust, but also for reasons of expense and liability—you wouldn’t want bullets flying around an enclosed space with lots of frightened tourists and precious objets d’art. While many galleries have alarms, guards, and other staff to prevent off-hour thefts, they don’t always take precautions to avoid the most obvious scenario: armed criminals walking right through the front door.

American art museums aren’t likely to have armed guards, either, but they do tend to have better security overall than their European counterparts. In the United States, your chances of finding a Van Gogh on display in a small gallery are slim; more likely, it would be in a museum on the scale of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. American museums also tend to be located in modern buildings, where it’s easier to set up high-tech sensors and alarms. The proprietors of centuries-old European houses are more reluctant to start drilling through walls and running cables in odd corners.