Vienna Redux

Sorry about the infrequent posting lately. Day job and hosting duties have had me a bit distracted. And tomorrow I'm off to the Czech Republic for a week.

To tide you over, here's some more Vienna.

I went back to Vienna in early July (Thanks, UM, for letting me crash).

Some readers alleged that my previous slideshow of Vienna was a bit grim. So the following pictures, taken during four bright, sunny, and murderously hot days, are a bit more cheery. There's some pics of Hietzing, Schloss Schoenbrunn, Meidling and the 12th District, the Naschmarkt, Palais Liechtenstein, the inner city, St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Central Cemetery, and the Marxer ('Biedermeier') Cemetery. Set to Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1, final movement, and the song 'Farewell' by Gyorgy Kurtag. A silent version with captions is here.

A Lesson in Anglo-Saxon Irony

Which of the following people is wearing the symbol of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with ironic intent:

1.    Six Dollar Shirts woman:



2.    Italian factory worker from the Fiat plant in Pomigliano D'Arco:


Hint: The Italian guy's shirt also sports a slogan that, if my functional Italian isn't letting me down, features the words 'ignorance' and 'death'. Plus, he's wearing beads.

If you guessed number one, congratulations!

Your reward is my favorite quotation from the article about the Italian Fiat factory (which is trying to get its staff to work harder, or something like that): "'He wants to impose American-style standards,' Nello Niglio, a factory
worker, said of [factory boss] Marchionne’s requirements to work longer hours and
cut back on absences. 'But too much work is going to kill our workers.'" Taken literally, he appears to be arguing that if Italians were forced to work as hard as Americans, they would all die. Who knows, maybe he's right. But here's another stumper: What would happen to Americans if they were suddenly free to work as little as Italians? Hmm…

Heil Hahnemann: Globuli in the Third Reich

Just in time, Spiegel has a cover story on homeopathy called The Great Illusion (g) here's the English version. Not much new here: homeopathy can't possibly work as described, doesn't cure illnesses; yet millions spend billions on it (interestingly, it's most popular, in Europe, among female college graduates). Both articles provide a list of amusing base ingredients for homeopathic remedies, including: "[a]phids, ovary extract from cows, hornets, cockroaches, woodlouse, toad
poison, mercury, saliva from rabid dogs or skunk secretion, … Coca-Cola, rotten beef, canine excrement, condom rubber, human
testicle extract and horse hair."

New to me was the strength and sophistication of the homeopathic remedies lobby and the fact that homeopathy was praised and intensively investigated by National Socialist researchers as an alternative to "Jewified school-medicine" (verjudete Schulmedizin). The National Socialists even hosted a 1937 World Congress of Homeopathy in Berlin, at which Rudolf Hess was an eager observer. The Nazis conducted fairly sophisticated studies (some, alas, on concentration camp inmates) whichshowed that homeopathic remedies had only a placebo effect. Basically prayer in pill form. So the studies were suppressed for decades, until the "Donner Report" (written by one of the participating doctors) was released in the mid-1990s.

Looking for a bit more information, I came across this interesting site (g) from 'Praxis Frauenweise', a homeopathic practice 'for women and children' in Nuremburg run by Gudrun Barwig. The site reprints a 1996 article called 'Homoepathy and National Socialism' which Barwig wrote for a natural-healing magazine. Just to make things clear, the author of this page is a homeopathic practitioner. The article contains some fascinating quotations from Nazi-era publications showing how the homeopathic worldview was embraced by the Nazis and wrapped up in the Third Reich's very own eerie vocabulary.
One Reich, One Volk, One Remedy! Here's a sentence from a 1933 article: "Thus, the Nordic man Hahnemann again brought German order and clarity in to the jumbled teachings about sickness that the chaotic South had lulled us into believing." At left is a group of homeopathic practitioners at a meeting in Chemnitz, gathered under a poster saluting Samuel Hahnemann, founder of homeopathy.

The article also notes that Third Reich doctors, although somewhat wary of homeopathy as a treatment, nevertheless appreciated it on two important political levels: it was already hugely popular among millions of Germans, and it was quite cheap. Thus, the Nazis supported homeopathy in many ways, including the creation of the Robert Bosch Hospital near Stuttgart, a 300-bed facility billed as the world's first exclusively homeopathic hospital. The homeopaths, as the Frauenweise article makes clear, repaid the favor with cringeworthy adulation of Nazi health functionaries, as well as ludicrous explanations of why homeopathy was truly, deeply völkisch. One even noted that homeopathic medicine would not have to be "de-jewified", since almost no homeopaths were Jews. According to Robert N. Proctor's Racial Hygiene, one homeopathic doctor, Rudolf Tischner, noted in 1937 that "in the Third Reich, organic medicine has found a respect that it never, not in its wildest dreams, imagined it might achieve." (233)

I'm not suggesting that homeopathy is discredited because the Nazis were fans, of course, since the Nazis were also fans of things that worked (highways) and things that were quite scientific (V2 rockets). Nevertheless, most aspects of German culture which were enthusiastically adopted and supported by the National Socialist dictatorship lost prestige after World War II — yet homeopathy seems to have been spared.

Interesting, that.

It’s the Viruses, Stupid

Who knew Wikipedia had a list of misconceptions? Perhaps the most relevant for Europeans:

Prolonged exposure to cold weather such as rain or winter conditions does not increase the likelihood of catching a cold.[63]
Although common colds are seasonal, with more occurring during winter,
experiments so far have failed to produce evidence that short-term
exposure to cold weather or direct chilling increases susceptibility to
infection, implying that the seasonal variation is instead due to a
change in behaviours such as increased time spent indoors close to
others.[64][65][66][67] Viruses spread more easily when humidity is low which is the case during wintertime.[68]
A lowering of body temperature can, however, reduce the body's
resistance to an infection that is already present, and cause temporary
sneezing and runny nose.[69] (See hypothermia)

Explaining American Europe-Bashing

Simon Tisdall has a thumb-sucker at Foreign Policy on the strain of 'ignorant, narcissistic' Europe-bashing that prevails on the American right. Highlights:

Beside himself with indignation [at a recent speech by Obama], columnist and pundit
Charles Krauthammer
the charge
on Fox News:

"Obama says, 'In America there is a failure to
appreciate Europe's leading role in the world.' Well, maybe that's
because when
there was a civil war on Europe's doorstep in the Balkans, and genocide,
didn't lift a finger until America led. Maybe it's because when there
was an
invasion of Kuwait it didn't lift a finger until America led. Maybe it's
because with America spending over half a trillion a year, keeping open
the sea
lanes in defending the world, Europe is spending pennies on defense.
It's hard
to appreciate an entity's leading role in the world when it's been
sucking on
your tit for 60 years."

Many Americans shared his fury. But in his eagerness to
condemn Obama's European "apology
(as former Bush advisor Karl Rove later dubbed it), the spluttering
inadvertently revealed that he suffered from the very problem Obama was
to address. After all, it is one thing to disagree with a president and
policy. It is quite another to be so bitterly and scathingly
contemptuous of an
entire continent and its people, especially one that, for better or
worse, is a
historical ally and a close political, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic

Uncertain whether to laugh or cry, Europeans ask: Is this
sort of thing to be taken seriously? What is going on?

Seen from Europe, of which Britain is (arguably) a part, the
roots of American anti-Europeanism appear many and varied. At one end of the
spectrum, there is the widely shared view that Europe does not pull its weight
in a world that Washington would like to order according to its lights. At the
other end of the spectrum, there is the unpalatable fact of widespread American
ignorance, exacerbated by indifference, of all things European.

Fear, envy, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, cultural
inferiority-superiority complexes, trade, political and military
rivalries, and
America's quest for identity all fed anti-European feeling as the new
sought to differentiate itself from the old countries whence most of its
came. Many of these phenomena remain relevant today.

"Expressing one's anti-European sentiment can be a way
of building up and displaying one's American identity and patriotism,"
said Patrick Chamorel in a European University Institute study published
Italy in 2004. "Anti-Europeanism has always been part of American
exceptionalism, which defined itself in contrast to European history,
and society."


It would be easy for Europeans to shrug off America's Europhobic
generalizations and mischaracterizations if they were exclusive to
neoconservatives, Bible Belt evangelists, and provincial Midwest
xenophobes. But
ever since the European Union dropped the ball in the Balkans in the
a potent mix of influential American thinkers, policymakers, and
have given anti-Europeanism a new respectability that cannot be
dismissed out
of hand. On the major issues that preoccupy Americans — defense,
terrorism, intervention, free trade, sovereignty, and nationalism — the
argument that Europe has lost its way has gained in influence. And as a
debt-laden European Union stares at the fiscal abyss, one can almost
feel the schadenfreude
emanating from across the pond.

There's something to Tisdall's argument, but I think he misses one root cause of this anti-Europeanism. What needs explaining is why there is so much bile and contempt in the Europe-bashing of many conservatives. After all, the mere fact that Europe may not be 'pulling its weight' (however that may defined) doesn't really justify the snotty, mocking tone of much anti-Europe commentary. After all, you'd usually reserve such rhetorical fireworks for a country that actually posed a threat to you. And Europe hardly 'threatens' America in any sense worth taking seriously.

Except one. Europe has more extensive social-welfare benefits than the U.S., guaranteed universal healthcare, and all the other familiar goodies. And providing them hasn't bankrupted European countries. Even after the wave of belt-tightening currently underway across the Continent, European social welfare policies will still be more generous than their American counterparts. These policies stand as a constant reminder that the choices that shape the American economy and workplace are just that — choices. Other countries have made different choices about how to allocate social resources, and it is thus always possible for the United States to do the same. 

In boom times, Americans rarely concern themselves with the possibility of a more generous social welfare system. But with American unemployment hovering well over the catastrophic level of 9 percent and long-term unemploymen growing rapidly, a more generous welfare system — along with the kind of counter-cyclical job benefits that helped European countries weather the economic crisis without a dramatic spike in unemployment — might look more and more tempting. Conservatives tirelessly warn that 'socialism' kills the goose that lays the golden egg of growth, but millions of Americans have looked around recently and asked, what golden egg? Even when productivity increases, real wages don't:



And, thought Tisdall mentions several instances of American provincialism in his piece, there's still some awareness among Americans that Europe does things differently, and a vague idea what it does differently. Witness Newsweek's recent cover story arguing that 'We're All Socialists Now', or any of Michael Moore's films. And, as Anne Applebaum recently pointed out, the notion that ordinary Americans are all rugged anti-government individualists is also largely bogus — Americans are quite fond of government programs — so long as the benefits flow primarily to people like them. (Which also explains the obsessive American suspicion of foreign aid):

If you don't live in [America] all of the time, and I don't, here is
what you notice when you come home: Americans — with their lawsuit
culture, their safety obsession and, above all, their addiction to
government spending programs — demand more from their government than
just about anybody else in the world. They don't simply want the
government to keep the peace and create a level playing field. They want
the government to ensure that every accident and every piece of bad
luck is prevented, or that they are fully compensated in the event
something goes wrong. And if the price of their house drops, they will
hold the government responsible for that, too.

If your core message is 'we don't want to end up like Europe', you need
to carry the argument further and explain why that would be a bad thing. Conservatives, thus, will always need to portray Europe as 'other', and a rather unimpressive other at that: weak, vacillating, directionless, declining, and increasingly irrelevant.

Needless to say, European politicians delivers regular examples of fecklnessness, which helps U.S. critics no end…

Quote of the Day: Stalslaw Brzozowski

instinct for truth [consists in the feeling that] every experience, every
action, every detail of behavior or a given individual will remain in his life
in one form or another; that a given moment in the past will always have an
indestructible meaning for a given individual. In other words, experiences and
moments are separated from one another by time are not isolated, but a part of
a certain active continuity existing in life, defining itself in one way or
another during every moment through which we live.

Stanislaw Brzozowski, Young Poland.

Darmstadt/Stuttgart Funkheads Aufgepasst

A friend from Texas emails:

you have funkified friends in Stuttgart or Darmstadt, don't miss Mother's Finest
They play quintessential 1970's funk (there is nothing funkier than the
"bebuhbuhbibobibibooo, yeah!" that opens "Piece of the
Rock") and are remarkably spry for having been doing it for nearly forty

Upcoming gigs in Darmstadt and Stuttgart (click on the link, and then "tour dates") are not to be missed. Except by me…

Bleg: Interesting Prague Hotels?

A friend and I are going to be gallivanting around the Czech Republic and perhaps Slovakivenia soon. Knowing my readers' impeccable tastes (proven during my Vienna trip), I thought I'd excrete a bleg. I'm looking for a hotel in/near Prague that fits the following bill: (1) offers parking spots (must-have); (2) reasonably centralish; (3) interesting/cool; (4) under about 80 EUR/night for a double room.

Mebbe that's too much to ask, but if it ain't, please fire away in comments.