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Deutsche Weisheit, Deutsche Dummheit III: Kaffee, Kuchen und Kultur

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Dies ist mein dritter Post über Deutsche Weisheit, deutsche Dummheit. Die beiden früheren sind hier und hier zu sehen.

Ich war kürzlich 2 1/2 Monate in Europa: zehn Tage Oberbayern, eine Woche München, drei Tage Bozen, jeweils eine Woche Rom, Oxford und London, etwa fünf Wochen Berlin, zwei Tage Hamburg. Mein Eindruck von Deutschland: Hervorragendes und preiswertes Essen mit guter und zuvorkommender Bedienung in den Restaurants, gemütliche Kaffees mit gutem und nicht übermässigem Kuchen (wenn man will), Hotels preiswert. Zur Weihnachtszeit nicht zu vergessen die Weihnachtsmärkte (in Berlin allein wahrscheinlich mehr als ein Dutzend). Insgesamt alles (wie mir scheint) besser und billiger als zum Beispiel Rom, Oxford und London. Insbesondere aber: eine reichhaltiges kulturelles Angebot: Oper, Theater und Konzert. Drei grosse Opernhäuser mit internationalem Niveau und so etwa 150 Theater in Berlin. Nur als Beispiel: eine anscheinend hervorragende Aufführung von “Im Dickicht der Städte” in München (die wir leider nicht sehen konnten, da wir schon weg waren), und gleich viermal Brecht in Berlin, die Dreigroschenoper, Der gute Mensch von Szechuan, der Ja- und der Neinsager, und ……?. Aufführungen gut besucht und manchmal ausverkauft. Aber nicht nur Brecht: alles von Shakespeare über Schiller, Büchner, Hauptmann, Kästner zur “Moderne” (was das so heisst). Viele Inszenierungen gut, manche grosser Misst (klassisches auf obszön-modern gemacht). Konzerte: fast jeden Tag oder zumindest mehrere Male die Woche etwas sehr gutes. So gingen wir zu einem sehr eindrucksvollen Konzert der Berliner Philharmoniker mit Tschaikowsky, Mussorgski und Schostakowitsch in der Philarmonie (ausverkauft), zur Neunten Symphonie im Konzerthaus (ausverkauft), und zu einem Barockkonzert in der Nikolaikirche. Zahlreiche kleinere Theater mit oft sehr interessanten Vorführungen. Leider war unsere Zeit begrenzt und wir konnten nur weniges sehen.

Kunstausstellungen: Die drei Pinakotheken und das Lenbachhaus (Der blaue Reiter) in München grossartig. In Berlin hatten wir nur Zeit für die Alte Nationalgalerie: am beeindruckendsten der Saal mit Kaspar David Friedrich. Die Hamburger Kunsthalle (direkt am Hauptbahnhof) ebenfalls mit grossartigen Sachen.

Insgesamt: enorm reichhaltig, und die Leute geniessen es ja anscheinend auch.

Die Presse: ebenfalls sehr reichhaltig und nicht so konzentriert wie zum Beispiel in Australien. Zwar beherrscht der Springerkonzern die Boulevardpresse mit der Bildzeitung, und die Welt ist ebenfalls einflussreich und weit verbreitet, aber eine ganze Reihe von (trotz der lokalen Namen) überregionalen Zeitungen balancieren das so etwa aus (Frankfurter Allgemeine, Frankfurter Rundschau, Süddeutsche, Handelsblatt, usw.). In Berlin allein drei grosse Tageszeitungen: Berliner Zeitung, Tagesspiegel und Berliner Morgenpost. Nachrichtenmagazine, vor allem Der Spiegel und Focus. Vieles darin gut, anderes nicht so, vor allem weil man einiges anscheinend nicht sehen will.

Aber der letzte Satz deutet schon auf einen meiner nächsten Posts, diesmal über deutsche Dummheit hin. Darüber mehr später.

Berühmte Zitate für einige Gelegenheiten (Famous quotes for some occasions)

Monday, January 28th, 2008

A selection from:

Jörg Drews (English translations by me)

“Neu im Zynischen Wörterbuch”, Tintenfass, Magazin für Literatur und Kunst No.2, Diogenes, Zürich 1981.

Ehrlichkeit
Betrügerei auf längere Sicht (Pitigrilli) ( Honesty: Dishonesty over the long term)

Gott
Gottseidank bin ich Atheist (Luis Buñuel) (God: Thanks to God I am an atheist)

Journalisten
Und wenn ich sage Journalisten, dann meine ich Drecksau. Das ist der richtige Name für das, was ihr tut (Aragon) (Journalists: And when I say journalist, I mean dirty pig. That is the right word for what you do)

Nationalismus
Selbst im Fall einer Revolution würden die Deutschen sich nur Steuerfreiheit, nie Gedankenfreiheit zu erkämpfen suchen (Friedrich Hebbel) (Nationalism: Even in the case of a revolution the Germans would try to fight for tax freedom, not for freedom of thought)

Nationalismus
Alle Franzosen sind alte Widerstandskämpfer (Alfred Paul Schmidt) (Nationalism: All Frenchmen are old resistance fighters)

Patriotismus
Es ist mir immer merkwürdig vorgekommen, dass man gerade das Land besonders lieben soll, wo man Steuern zahlt (Ziffel) (Patriotism: It always seemed odd to me that one should love that country most where one has to pay taxes)

Welt
Wenn du mit einem deiner Haare die Welt retten könntest, gib es nicht her! (Yang-biu) (World: If you could save the world with one of your hairs, don’t sacrifice it!)

Ich stimme nicht allem unbedingt zu, aber es sollte zum Nachdenken anregen (I don’t necessarily agree with everything, but it should make you think)

Durchbruch in Gaza

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Hier sind einige Auszüge eines Artikels aus Spiegel online, 26 January 2008. Der ungekürzte Artikel ist hier zu finden.

Abstract: Henryk Broder suggests that the forced opening of the Gaza-Egypt border may be just a test by Hamas for a later forced opening of the Israel-Palestine border.

PALÃSTINENSER-EXODUS AUS GAZA
Der Probelauf der Hamas
Von Henryk M. Broder
Mit dem Palästinenser-Exodus aus Gaza steht es 3:0 für die Hamas: Israel ist ratlos, Ägypten blamiert, und eine Gang, die sich vor einem halben Jahr mit Waffengewalt an die Macht geputscht hat, lehrt die Welt das Grausen.

“Und nun hat die Hamas die Grenzanlagen zwischen dem Gaza-Streifen und Ägypten plattgemacht, und die Welt schaut beeindruckt zu: Keine schlechte Leistung für eine “Regierung”, die nicht in der Lage ist, die eigene Bevölkerung mit dem Nötigsten zu versorgen, aber genug Schweissbrenner, Sprengstoff und schwere Baumaschinen hat, um einen Wall aus Stahlplatten einzureissen.
Hiess es anfangs in den Nachrichten, es seien an einigen Stellen “Löcher” in den Grenzzaun gesprengt worden, so weiss man es inzwischen besser. Die Aktion wurde von langer Hand systematisch vorbereitet und mit grosser Präzision ausgeführt, ohne dass die oberschlauen Israels etwas gemerkt oder die auf der anderen Seite der Grenze herumlungernden Ägypter etwas unternommen hätten.

Die vielen Palästinenser, die dann “spontan” über die Grenze strömten, waren nur die glücklichen Statisten in einer Inszenierung, mit der die Hamas beweisen wollte, dass sie eine “Krise” in Gang setzen kann, wann immer sie will.”

‘Wahrscheinlicher ist ein anderes Szenario: Der Durchmarsch nach Ägypten war nur der Probelauf für ein grösseres Vorhaben. Was passiert, wenn die Hamas eine halbe Million Gaza-Palästinenser an der Grenze zu Israel aufmarschieren lässt, die leichter zu überwinden ist? Ein Alptraum, den der Allmächtige verhindern möge.”

Herr Broder macht keine vernünftigen Vorschläge, wie das Problem zu lösen sei. Ist es vielleicht Zeit, dass sich Israel um eine ernsthafte Lösung nicht nur der Situation in Gaza, sondern der Situation im Westjordanland und den Golanhöhen sowie um eine Lösung der palästinensischen Flüchtlingsfrage bemüht? Israel ist der zur Zeit bei weitem mächtigste “Partner” (sowohl militärisch als auch wirtschaftlich) und hat daher die besseren Möglichkeiten und die grössere Verantwortung für eine Beilegung des Konflikts. Sollte der erste Schritt ein Halt des weiteren Ausbaues der illegalen Siedlungen im Westjordanland und die Zurücknahme der bereits gebauten sein? Ferner: eine ganze Reihe prominenter Israelis, Politiker, Künstler und Wissenschaftler, haben sich für eine Aufnahme von Verhandlungen mit der Hamas ausgesprochen. Sollte man ihrem Rat folgen? Immerhin ist die “Gang” (in Broders Worten) demokratisch gewählt worden.

Die Palästinenser in Gaza leben in einem riesigen Gefängnis, die palästinensischen Flüchtlinge im Libanon nicht viel bessser. Wen soll es wundern, dass der Dampfkochtopf explodiert, wenn der Druck zu gross wird, wie es jetzt gerade in Gaza passierte? Wen soll es wundern, wenn das gleiche an der Grenze zwischen den Palästinensergebieten und Israel passiert. Eine letzte Warnung?

Iraq and the Military – PR Industrial Complex

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

I have discussed the power of the Military – PR Industrial Complex in two previous posts. Relevant here is a recent article on the website of the Center of Public Integrity (full article there).

False Pretenses
FOLLOWING 9/11, PRESIDENT BUSH AND SEVEN TOP OFFICIALS OF HIS ADMINISTRATION WAGED A CAREFULLY ORCHESTRATED CAMPAIGN OF MISINFORMATION ABOUT THE THREAT POSED BY SADDAM HUSSEIN’S IRAQ.

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.
On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration’s case for war.
It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda.
This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose “Duelfer Report” established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.
……….
President Bush, for example, made 232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda. Secretary of State Powell had the second-highest total in the two-year period, with 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda. Rumsfeld and Fleischer each made 109 false statements, followed by Wolfowitz (with 85), Rice (with 56), Cheney (with 48), and McClellan (with 14).
The massive database at the heart of this project juxtaposes what President Bush and these seven top officials were saying for public consumption against what was known, or should have been known, on a day-to-day basis. This fully searchable database includes the public statements, drawn from both primary sources (such as official transcripts) and secondary sources (chiefly major news organizations) over the two years beginning on September 11, 2001. It also interlaces relevant information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches, and interviews………
……. . In July 2002, Rumsfeld had a one-word answer for reporters who asked whether Iraq had relationships with Al Qaeda terrorists: “Sure.” In fact, an assessment issued that same month by the Defense Intelligence Agency (and confirmed weeks later by CIA Director Tenet) found an absence of “compelling evidence demonstrating direct cooperation between the government of Iraq and Al Qaeda.” What’s more, an earlier DIA assessment said that “the nature of the regime’s relationship with Al Qaeda is unclear.”…….

. On January 28, 2003, in his annual State of the Union address, Bush asserted: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.” Two weeks earlier, an analyst with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research sent an email to colleagues in the intelligence community laying out why he believed the uranium-purchase agreement “probably is a hoax.”
………

……., a growing number of critics, including a parade of former government officials, have publicly ” and in some cases vociferously” accused the president and his inner circle of ignoring or distorting the available intelligence. In the end, these critics say, it was the calculated drumbeat of false information and public pronouncements that ultimately misled the American people and this nation’s allies on their way to war.
…….. Congressional oversight has focused almost entirely on the quality of the U.S. government’s pre-war intelligence ” not the judgment, public statements, or public accountability of its highest officials. ……… Clearly, it calls into question the repeated assertions of Bush administration officials that they were the unwitting victims of bad intelligence.”

Much of this has been known for a long time, the importance of the report lies in the presentation of detailed quantitative data. What did the PR industry do all the time? Dissemination of false information would have been impossible without its compliance.

Ask Blockheads and you get Blockheads’ Answers.Top Brass call for Nuclear First Strike

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (full article there),

Top brass call for nuclear first strike

THE West must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the “imminent” spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new NATO.
The document, written by five of the West’s most senior military officers and strategists, has been presented to the Pentagon and NATO’s secretary-general.
They have called for root-and-branch reform of NATO and a new pact drawing the US, NATO and the European Union together in a “grand strategy”.
The former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a “first strike” nuclear option remains an “indispensable instrument” since there is “simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world”.”….

“The proposals are likely to be discussed at a NATO summit in Bucharest in April…..

“The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible,” the authors argue.”…….

“They paint an alarming picture of the threats and challenges confronting the West and deliver a withering verdict on the ability to cope. The five commanders argue that the West’s values and way of life are under threat, but that the West is struggling to summon the will to defend them.”

Among the most radical changes they demand are:

” The use of force without United Nations Security Council authorisation when “immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings”.

What are the West’s values and way of life? Could it be the continuing and accelerating inequality in the distribution of the Earth’s riches, as discussed in my previous post? Could the proposal of the military brass lead to final disaster? Would it be more reasonable to tackle the underlying social and economic problems threatening stability?

The Rich Waste, the Poor Pay

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Using, among others, data from the World Bank and the UN, US researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have shown that between 1961 and 2000, at least 8.7 trillion US Dollars of damage to the environment was caused, almost entirely by the richer countries. The estimates are based on effects of intensive agriculture, deforestation, overfishing, destruction of mangroves, the ozon hole and global warming. The burden is largely carried by poorer countries; it amounts to more than the foreign debt of these countries which stands at 1.8 trillion Dollars. The report was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the US. For further details click here.

A New Book Burning?

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Prohibitions of books including public book burnings are not new and have sporadically occurred throughout history in a number of (if not most) countries. Has humanity learned?

The international English version of the Spiegel (18.1.08) has an interesting article:
“FEAR AND SLANDER IN POLAND
Anti-Semitism Book Could Land Historian in Jail

Prosecutors in Poland are considering charging the US historian Jan Tomasz Gross with slandering the Polish nation following the publication of his book on anti-Semitism in the country after World War II.”

“According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates both Nazi and Communist crimes, between 600 and 3,000 of the approximately 300,000 Jews who survived the Holocaust were subsequently killed in Poland. Gross, a professor at Princeton University, says around 200,000 Jews decided to leave the country after anti-Semitic attacks.”

” ‘Inappropriate to Burn Books’

The author is now under investigation by the public prosecutors in Krakow, home to his publishers Znak. They are looking into whether the book broke a law that makes slandering the Polish nation a crime. Statute 132 was passed by the government of former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in 2006 and provides a three-year prison term for anyone “publicly accusing the Polish nation of participating in, organizing or being responsible for Nazi or Communist crimes.”

“Gross, who was born in Warsaw in 1947, emigrated to the United States with his family in 1968. His previous book “Neighbors” likewise sparked controversy when it was published in Poland in 2001. It dealt with the massacre of Jews by Polish inhabitants of the town of Jedwabne in 1941. Gross concluded that the Jews in the town had perished at the hands of their own Polish neighbors rather than the Nazis, as had been previously assumed.”

You can find the full article here.

Where are the Australian Protesters? Save the Whales!!

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

From the New York Times, 17.1.08 (extracts)

“The fight over how humans should, and should not, interact with whales has moved from the waters off Antarctica, where environmental campaigners have been harassing Japanese whalers, to the White House.

While traveling in the Middle East on Tuesday, President Bush issued an exemption to the Navy from environmental laws that would otherwise limit its ability to use certain kinds of sonar used in anti-submarine warfare training, the Associated Press said.

Last August, the Natural Resources Defense Council persuaded a federal judge in Los Angeles to order a stop to Navy training exercises off Southern California using medium-range sonar. The judge said that the Navy’s own assessments predicted that dozens of marine mammals, particularly deep-diving whales, could be harmed by the intense sound waves. In January, a fresh injunction was issued by the court requiring the Navy to establish a 12-nautical-mile, no-sonar zone along the coast and to post lookouts for marine mammals.

The A.P. quoted a White House memorandum as saying, ‘The Navy training exercises, including the use of sonar, are in the paramount interest of the United States’. This exemption will enable the Navy to train effectively and to certify carrier and expeditionary strike groups for deployment in support of worldwide operational and combat activities, which are essential to national security.

Environmental campaigners and California officials sharply attacked the decision in a joint news release today.

‘There is absolutely no justification for this,’ said California Coastal Commissioner Sara Wan. ‘Both the court and the Coastal Commission have said that the Navy can carry out its mission as well as protect the whales. This is a slap in the face to Californians who care about the oceans.’

‘The president’s action is an attack on the rule of law,’ said Joel Reynolds, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “By exempting the Navy from basic safeguards under both federal and state law, the president is flouting the will of Congress, the decision of the California Coastal Commission and a ruling by the federal court.”

How to measure specificity?

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

A major problem in biology is how to measure the specificity of organisms for other species. For example, how restricted is the preference of honey bees for particular plant species on which they collect honey, how narrow is the host range of parasites? But this is not only a problem in biology. We also might wish to quantify the preferences of customers for particular products, etc.

It would be easiest, of course, to count the number of plant species visited by honey bees, or the number of host species infected by a parasite, and call one which uses 1000 species less specific than one which uses a single species. But this would not consider the relative preference for particular species among all the species used. Intuitively, we would be inclined to say that a species which uses 100 species to the same degree, is less specific than one which also uses 100 species, but one of them much more strongly than all the others. How can we measure this?

Rohde, in a number of papers, has proposed an index which takes the degree of utilization of each host into consideration. The values for the index range from 0 (very low specificity) to one (very high specificity). The most recent version of the index is described in a paper accepted for publication in the French ecological journal Vie et Milieu (Life and Environment). I discuss it in my blog to draw attention of non-biologists to it, for whom it may be as useful as for biologists. For example, a company producing T-shirts might wish to quantify the popularity of its products. It has 50 types of T-shirts on the market, one has sold 10000 times, the second 500 times, etc. The index allocates a single quantitative measure to the relative “success” of the various products, which may be useful for allocating resources in producing them.

For details of the index see

Rohde, K. and Rohde, P.P. The ecological niches of parasites, In:

Klaus Rohde (editor): Marine Parasitology, CSIRO Publishing Melbourne and CABI Oxford (2005),pp. 286-293.

and

Rohde, K. and Rohde, P.P. 2008. How to measure host specificity. Vie et Milieu (in press)

The program for the index can be found here.

The Sydney Institute and Gerard Henderson

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

A link to my post “Brecht-Zitate” led me to the website of the Sydney Institute and Gerard Henderson. I know Henderson from his columns in the Sydney Morning Herald but have given up reading most of them except for the titles because they are so obviously tilted towards the more extreme wing of the right that one can guess what is in an article from the title alone. Most mortals tend to stand on both their left and right legs, but in some one of the legs is completely atrophied. No insult intended, but I suggest that in Henderson’s case it is the left leg (or would he accept this as a complement?)

The website discusses (or rather presents a diatribe against) John Pilger, the noted Australian investigative journalist, under the title

“Hidden Agendas or Hidden Agenda”

“Sydney-born journalist John Pilger returned Down Under in May for Sydney Writers’ Week and for media appearances following the launch of his book Hidden Agendas (Vintage, 1998). The page before the introduction contains a quote from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
Good point. Even if it is somewhat disturbing to see a barracker for the communist totalitarian regime in Vietnam quoting an author who opposed totalitarianism without qualification.”

“The introduction to Hidden Agendas is replete with familiar pilgerisms. John Pilger, a professional journalist widely quoted in the media, complains that ‘we have government by the media, for the media’. There is more of such tosh – including the (unsourced) allegation that the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is ‘an organisation…deeply involved in the drugs trade’. This is the familiar refrain of the Lunar Right and what remains of the extreme left.”

etc. etc.

I restrict my further comments to Henderson’s remarks on Bertolt Brecht, by almost common consent one of the greatest, if not the greatest German playwright and poet of the 2oth century, with immense international prestige and influence (Charles Laughton: the Shakespeare of the 20th century).

Further according to the website of the Sydney Institute, “The (communist) government in Vietnam is praised for resisting American values. No mention is made of repression in Vietnam. Hidden Agendas quotes Bertolt Brecht’s poem The Solution with approval. No mention is made of the fact that Brecht supported communist regimes in the Soviet Union and East Germany and that he stole much of his literary output from female friends. All this is documented in John Fuegi’s The Life and Lies of Bertolt Brecht (HarperCollins, 1994).”

I know Fuegi’s book, although I have not read all of it. Fuegi is the founder of the international Brecht Society and has spent may years of effort promoting his work. So, he has no doubt about the significance of his work, but suggested that Brecht provided various women with sex and they, in return, wrote the plays for him. He also suggested that Brecht at first hesitated whether he should accommodate with the Nazis, utter rubbish considering that his wife, the famous actress Helene Weigel, was Jewish and that he stood on the Nazis’ lists as one of the most wanted men. Concerning plagiarism: in editions of his works the help of various women is acknowledged, including that of Elisabeth Hauptmann, who edited the 20 volume edition of his collected works. Concerning his support for the East German regime: he wanted to settle in West Germany after he left the US, but was refused permission by the Allies; so he went to East Germany instead. I don’t want to indulge in further details, except for saying that personal smears do not make up for good arguments.