Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year

While the world is waiting for Donald Trump to take office we should not forget other upcoming events or ongoing issues. One note recently published by the New York Times about climatic change nearly swept me off my feet.

© M. Lourdes
Warm temperatures in the Arctic in recent months could lead to record-low levels of ice. In mid-November 2016, parts of the Arctic were more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than observed averages, scientists said. Over all, the last year broke the Arctic’s record for the warmest year. “We’re going to be watching the summer of 2017 very closely,” one scientist said.

Watching in 2017 is a good thing but we all note that some areas of our globe are falling dry while others are haunted by heavy rainfalls and flooding. What will be the effect of those observations on the ongoing global migration of people? Are the countermeasures against climate change agreed upon by the world community in Paris coming too late? Although I read that President Trump cannot revoke the Paris Agreement, will his administration implement the agreed climate protection goals according to schedule?

The president-elect said: "There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag," he continued. "From now on it is going to be: America First ... Never anyone again will any other interests come before the interest of the American people. It is not going to happen again."

2017 will be a year of elections in Europe starting in the Netherlands on March 15. Geert Wilders and his populist Party for Freedom will certainly gain more votes than in previous elections. This is followed on April 23 by the French presidential election where Front National's and populist Marine Le Pen stands a good chance of winning. On September 14 or 21 we shall have general elections in Germany and it is certain that the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) will be presented in our new Bundestag. Aren't we lucky that up to now the AfD is lacking a charismatic leader? Fake news and trumpism (emphasizing national interests and fighting European integration) will dominate the election campaigns of all populist movements. And it is all good, for the elections are democratic.

The other day in an editorial coming out as an avowed defender of democracy a left leaning German journalist had an intuition: What I really mean and always meant is a liberal democracy.

In 2016 we read and heard over and over again that we must conserve and even defend our precious catalogue of Western values. How will the traditional parties withstand populism or will they somehow bashfully jump on the bandwagon?

The New Year will be an exciting one.

In the German way: I wish you all a healthy 2017.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin illuminated black-red-gold
one day after the torrorist attack on the local Weihnachtsmarkt (©AFP)
The year draws to an end and it was full of surprises. For me 2016 was a T-year. No, not Trump; that will be in 2017 and the three following years.

Paris: January 7, 2015
2016 was the Year of Terror. As far as my blog is concerned I changed my profile picture three times. When in spring 2016 Red Baron still remembered the Charlie Hebdo massacre Brussels, the Belgian capital, was haunted by terrorists on March 22.

Brussels: March 22, 2016
July 14, France's National Holiday, was overshadowed by a bloody truck attack in Nice ...

Nice: July 14, 2016
... a tactic that was cruelly repeated in Berlin on December 19. You may read in the November issue of the Internet journal Rumiyah: Trucks are like knives; they are easy to get and are not suspect. This is cynical with respect to the Polish driver murdered by terrorist Anis Amri in his cockpit. Łukasz Urban leaves a wife and a son behind.

Berlin: December 19, 2016
More and more right wing people in my country amalgamate the massive influx of Muslim refugees in 2015 with Islamic state terrorists trying to capitalize politically on these jihadist attacks aimed against our western society and our way of life.

European solidarity: a minute of silence in France's National Assembly on December 20 (©dpa)
Religious fanaticism is a root of evil and misguided fanaticism is worse. In our enlightened "Christian" world we should not forget that in the past "Christian fundamentalists" practiced crusades against Muslims and pogroms against Jews.

And if religion is not the root it is easily used as a pretext. The German historian Golo Mann rightly wrote: With the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War the Bohemian Protestants always claimed that the war was about religion while the Habsburgs continued stating that the war was nothing else than a secular rebellion, with other words a fight for power.

Frequently "leaders" cynically argue with religious ideology to keep the gemeiner Mann (common man) in line and then will send him to fight and die for the leaders' glory. Over the centuries nothing has changed except that nowadays the jihad sends suicide attackers killing "infidels".

On Tuesday, December 20, one day after the Berlin attack we had a precious guest at Freiburg. Red Baron visited the local Weihnachtsmarkt in good company.

We observed an increased presence of cops ...

Frohe Weihnachten protected by the police (©dpa/Patrick Seeger)
... and noted a somewhat subdued mood.

The Reibekuchenbude on Freiburg's Weihnachtsmarkt
When approaching the booth selling Reibekuchen (potato pancakes) we noticed the following commemorative poster.

A minute of silence
After all life continues so we ordered the most delicious freshly made potato pancakes with Apfelmus (applesauce).

More than ever I wish you a Merry Christmas.
May peace be with you and your family.

Birth of Christ (Paris Book of Hours 1410)
Note the sad looks of the holy couple.
In France it is the time of the Hundred Years' War.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Follower of the Being

When I opened the art & culture section of the Badische Zeitung the other morning I saw the following photo:

©Martin Heidegger Archiv
Red Baron was shocked. Martin Heidegger (RHS) and der Führer on one photo? Not at all, the other guy is Martin's younger brother Fritz. The photo illustrated an article titled Mitläufer des Seyns (Follower of the Being) dealing with the correspondence between the Heidegger brothers starting in 1931.

What I read was even more shocking than the black & white photo. As early as December 18, 1931, exactly 85 years ago, Martin sent his brother Hitler's book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) from Freiburg to Meßkirch, hometown of the Heidegger brothers. Martin wrote: I really wish that you analyze Hitler's book. No understanding person may deny that this man has an extraordinary and sure political instinct. He already had it when we all were still befuddled. The national socialist movement will acquire even more power in the near future. This is no longer small party policy but will be the rescue or the fall of Europe and the Occidental culture.

And on March 2, 1932, Martin added: Today there exists only one clear line sharply separating left and right. Half measures are treason. Read Volk ohne Raum (People without space) by Hans Grimm and learn about Heimat and the destiny of our nation.

Fritz who apparently had the more precise political judgement wrote to his brother on April 3, 1933: Hitler's look on present pictures and part of his attitude frequently remind me of you. This comparison sometimes leads me to the conclusion that Hitler is an exceptional guy. Strange. Red Baron thought that in the photo above Fritz looked more like der Führer.

Martin answered in return: From day to day it becomes clearer how much Hitler is growing as a statesman.The world of our nation and of the Reich is in transformation and he that hath eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to act is carried away and set into genuine and deep excitement - around us we meet again a great reality and at the same time a great distress integrating that reality into the spiritual world of the Reich and into the secret contract of the German being. By the way, three Jews disappeared from my faculty because of the law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.

Were these lines written in view of Heidegger's longing for the position of rector of Freiburg's university? On April 20, 1933, Rector Wilhelm von Möllendorff, a social democrat, being pushed by the Nazis stepped back making room for Martin Heidegger.

During the war on September 3, 1943, with Germany more and more in ruins Martin wrote to Fritz: Although the darkeness draws on the quiet light of the Being the light is neither consumed nor clouded.

Later near the end of the Third Reich: A higher untouchable self prevails above and in us. We must not escape from its grace. Now one "world" will perish that for a long time already did not have the inner greatness and truthfulness but only was façade, noise, pleasure, and indifference.

And when it was all over Heidegger stated: Now all is bad and worse than during the Nazi period but to me the idea becomes more and more clear that our homeland (Heimat), the nucleus of the southwest, will be the historical birthplace of the Occidental Being although we contemporaries come too late for the gods and to early for the Being.

The French occupation forces withdrew his teaching permission but later on classified him only as a Mitläufer (follower of the Nazis). Heidegger laconically commented on September 21, 1949: I always was a follower of the Being and I am likely to remain so.

What a misanthropist.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Name Bashing

As I had predicted: the renaming of street names with a loaded past excited Freiburg's citizens. There was a flood of letters to the editor, mostly complaining about the money involved that could be used better.

In fact, in my letter published in the Badische Zeitung, I proposed that instead of renaming Rennerstraße*, it would be easy to look into Wikipedia and find another famous innocent Renner as godfather for the street thus avoiding that residents had to change their addresses.
*named after Johann Jacob Renner the "burner of witches." In the meantime, I wrote his missing article in Wikipedia.

In the case of Alexander Ecker, I criticized the argumentation of the naming commission that a skull collection in the 19th century would have given rise to the racist ideology of the Nazis. At that time, the study of skulls was à la mode and even practiced by Goethe.

In 1826 the mayor of Weimar presented him with Schiller's skull which Goethe gauged according to the then latest method: the Gallische Schädellehre (Gallic skull theory). He even wrote a poem: Bei der Betrachtung von Schillers Schädel (In contemplation of Schiller's skull).

Goethe's choice. With three skulls in front of him, doesn't he look skeptical?
Weimar's mayor simply picked the biggest skull out of the many skulls he found in the ossuary, for he thought that Schiller must have had a bigger brain than ordinary people. It was an irony for already at the end of the 19th-century scientists were pretty sure that the skull Goethe had contemplated was not Schiller's skull. This was confirmed by DNA analysis in 2008 with the result that Schiller's skull is lost.

A recurring remark in those letters to the editor concerned Luther's anti-Semitism and why the street bearing his name was not proposed for renaming. Did the naming commission beat Alban Stolz but meant Martin Luther?

Alban Stolz's bust in Freiburg (©BZ)
It indeed is remarkable: Freiburg's Catholic Cathedral Prelate and Lutheran City Deacon united in writing a press release: Nobody is morally perfect. If we judge persons, we place ourselves above them.

In their argumentation, they simply follow John 8:7 when Jesus was asked about the fate of a woman caught in adultery he answered: Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her. The two clergymen pleaded to leave all street names, including that of Martin Heidegger, but add explanatory texts to the street signs.

©Michael Bamberger/BZ
In the meantime, the city council decided to follow the recommendation of the renaming commission. However, the renaming of each of the dozen streets will individually be discussed at a later date. Haben die keine anderen Sorgen? (Don't they have any other worries?)

As you already know, they have.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Last October the Frankreich Zentrum of Freiburg's university held an academic conference open to the public about Napoleon Bonaparte, hero, demon, visionary. Interpretative projections in the 19th century. Only very few people were present and listening.

What made Napoleon initially so popular among the people? Above all it was the bourgeoisie for he fulfilled their longing for stability in ending the excesses of the French Revolution. Elected as Consul for a period of 10 years Napoleon declared on December 13, 1799: Citizens! La Revolution is solidly anchored in its initial principles; it is over.

When the German poet Johann Gottfried Seume on his way back from Syracuse to Leipzig saw Napoleon in Paris on July 14, 1801, the National Holiday, he was disappointed. The Revolution not only was over, but in Seume's opinion Napoleon had betrayed the Republic by reintroducing the Catholic Church in France. Seume wrote in his diary: Since Napoleon has resolutely interred liberty I feel that only now I have become a republican. Bonaparte could have been a savior of mankind but he contented himself being the first reborn son of the Catholic Church.

However, the French people standing around him admiringly said: Il fait diablement des choses, ce petit caporal d'Italie; cela va loin! (The small Italian corporal is doing things devilishly well; that will lead far!). After the defeat of the Prussian army in the Battles of Jena and Auerstedt his compatriots called him: Le grand mécanicien de la victoire (The great mechanician of victories).

Sketch for the painting of Napoleon's coronation 
Napoleon himself promoted his fame when crowing himself as emperor shunting the pope.

Showing Napoleon crowing himself was possibly too much.
The ultimate painting shows Napoleon crowning his the wife Josephine instead.
He showed to the world that he is the greatest but he knew: Mon pouvoir tient à ma gloire, et ma gloire aux victoires que j’ai remportées (My power depends on my glory, and my glory depends on my victories that I have gained).

All in vain.
European nobility did not dig le petit caporal.
Napoleon had not only disavowed the pope but the Papal State being under his rule he ordered the Pontifex to pull a saint out of his tiara who should be venerated on August 15, birthday of the emperor. The pope came up with the patron of warriors, St. Neopolis, a Roman soldier and martyr. The similarity in name with Napoleon was greatly emphasized and the French memorial day from 1806 to 1813 was no longer July 14, but August 15.

St. Neopolis or St. Napoleon?
In countries under his rule many intellectuals and members of the bourgeoisie adored Napoleon too. They regarded him as savior of the peasants from serfdom, as Europe's unifier, as the new Charlemagne. And Napoleon knew: A new-born rule must dazzle and amaze otherwise it will topple.

When the emperor entered Erfurt on September 27, 1808, to open the Princes' Day people filled the streets. Foreign Minister Talleyrand observed: Everybody wants to see the man and see him closely who distributes crowns and thrones and who holds in his almighty hands the fate of Europe, delight and hope, distress and misery.

Writing the Code Napoleon ... for Europe.
Napoleon was a realist too when he said to the Austrian ambassador: Your rulers born to be on a throne could be beaten twenty times and still they will return to their residences. My rule will not survive the day when I ceased to be strong and subsequently will no longer be feared.

How true, although following Napoleon's defeat the admiration for him did not stop.

Napoleon's apotheose

Napoleon awakes to eternal glory.

Friday, December 9, 2016


Much has been written about #hate on the Internet. Why is it so that even a Liberal city councillor from Freiburg wrote on facebook about brown rats leaving their gutters referring to the populist movement AfD in Germany? His poisoning remark raised a shitstorm, rightly so.

Freiburg is in turmoil since on October 16, an early jogger found the corpse of a 19 year old student who on her way back from a faculty party was raped and then drowned in the Dreisam River. The police worked overtime and on December 3, revealed that the prime suspect was 17 year-old Afghan boy who had come to Germany as a UMA (unaccompanied underage foreigner). Since then he had been living with a German foster family.

At the scene of the crime the police found the key indication in a nearby bush: a single 20 cm long multicolored hair. In watching hours of video tapes taken on the streetcar line running nearby they eventually assigned the hair to the Afghan boy. The matching of the DNA secured at the scene of the crime makes him the prime suspect in the murder of the student.

Suddenly even tolerant citizens start to blame Chancellor Merkel for her open refugee policy that had spilled 800,000 unchecked persons into Germany in 2015. Only now our bureaucratic system is coming to grips with the number of refugees stranded in my country. It is estimated that nearly 500,000 persons are not entitled to political asylum thus living illegally in Germany. Many of those should be extradited. Such an expulsion is a lengthy procedure, too long for many of my country fellows.

Here are just three moderate examples of #hate mails in the case of the Freiburg murder sent to the Badische Zeitung, most of them in rudimentary German:

Rapefugeesarenotwelcome!!! Verpisst euch!! (Rapefugees are not welcome!!! Piss off!!)
Dem gehören die Eier ab!!!! (Cut off his balls!!!!)
Ich hoffe das sie dich Tod Schlagen du kleines arschloch!!! (I hope they will beat you to death you little asshole!!!)

The brutal murder and its circumstances pushed Freiburg into the national news. Yesterday night Mayor Dieter Salomon was on the Maybrit Illner talk show. He iterated his position: The committed murder is not worse because the suspect is a refugee. Had it been a German I would not have been less appalled.

Maybrit Illner is the second lady from the left.
Note the projected "angst" in the background (©ZDF).
Although the topic of the discussion was Refugees under suspicion - the end of Germany's welcoming culture? the debate soon turned to the problem of repatriation of refugees into so-called safe countries. It happens that according to the German government Afghanistan is defined as a safe country. So Afghan refugees must return. 

Salomon was right looking sceptical (©ZDF)
During the talk show host Maybrit presented a young Afghan man who has lived in Germany over the last five years, speaking German and looking for a job. He presently is in a state of toleration. He may only stay in Germany if he finds an apprenticeship. In fact, his appearance on television will be the chance of his life.

If Germany likes to keep the good refugees how can it get rid of criminals? Countries like Morocco refuse to take those citizens back. Should they be parachuted over the Maghreb?

Today and tomorrow Salomon is in the Vatican at a summit meeting of 50 European mayors. Their topic: Refugees are our brothers and sisters. Pope Francis will assist the summit on Saturday for three hours hopefully enlightening those mayors.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

National Socialism in Freiburg

Don't panic, it's all history. Yesterday Red Baron attended the opening ceremony of an exhibition: Nationalsozialismus in Freiburg at the auditorium of the university. The entrance to the building was well protected by security staff for the organizers feared demonstrations by right wingers.

Mayor Dieter Salomon greeting the audience.
The photo in color behind him shows a scene of a rally
 on Münsterplatz during the NSDAP district assembly in 1939.
The guy in traditional costume looks skeptical.
Is he aware about the war starting in September of the same year?
The auditorium was fully packed when Mayor Salomon addressed the assembled dignitaries and common people. This remark was the only joke in his heartfelt speech. On several occasions he deviated from his manuscript speaking off the cuff. With the rise of populists all over the world putting democracies to the test people in Germany are particularly perturbed. As the Holocaust survivor, the Italian chemist Primo Levi once wrote: It has happened and therefore it may happen again.

Admittedly the Weimar Republic was an unloved child attacked by the Communists on the left and the Nazis on the right with the latter winning in 1933. So when putting Donald Trump in the States, Marine le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in England, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and Frauke Petry in Germany in one, i.e., the populist basket democratic-minded people generally stress the stability of modern democracies with an uneasy feeling remaining.

Same rally as in the photo above.
People raising their right hands in the Nazi salute convey an eerie atmosphere.
Following a reception in the foyer of the auditorium attendees were invited to walk 500 meters and see the exhibition at the Augustinermuseum exceptionally open until 11 p.m. on the occasion. The place was too crowded so Red Baron only stayed for a short while but will come back another day.

Reichsbischof Ludwig Müller visiting Freiburg in 1935
Here is one of the exhibition items that has already excited me. I did not know that the gleichgeschalteten (brought in line) Lutherans called themselves not only Deutsche Christen (German Christians) but evangelische Nationalsozialisten too.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Black Saturdays

At this year's Thanksgiving Dinner at the Greiffenegg-Schlössle US Consul General James W. Herman eloquently calmed down German angst with respect to the new administration taking power in January 2017. He praised the idea of thanksgiving as giving your thanks for all the good things you have received during the past year. Mr. Herman encouraged the German people to adopt the celebration of Thanksgiving.

Consul General James W. Herman at the Greiffenegg-Schlössle
Pardon? Didn't he know that from time immemorial we have been celebrating the Erntedankfest (harvest festival) on the first Sunday in October although admittedly mostly in rural areas and without much publicity.

Fact is that over the past years the German people or rather department stores and vendors have adopted Valentine's Day, Halloween, and most recently Black Friday. In particular this year Red Baron saw the shops full of creepy articles they never were able to sell for Halloween showing that the rooting of this custom in my country is not very deep. I also noticed that Black Friday sales are picking up pace in Germany.

Misunderstood Black Friday: for a whole week
In Freiburg we really do not need Black Friday for we have black Saturdays throughout the year. Going downtown on a Saturday means that you'd better polish up your French and your Alemannic dialect for any sort of communication. In particular the Swiss invade the department stores at Kaiser-Joseph-Straße and Freiburg's restaurants. Black Saturdays are bright Saturdays for Freiburg's merchants. Now at Advent time the Swiss assault has increased and - thanks to Trump ante portas - is nourished by a Swiss franc getting stronger with respect to the euro every day.

Around Bertoldsbrunnen this morning
I must admit that I profited from the Black Friday sales on the Internet in completing my private weather station with a wind gauge, paying 25% off. Well, my actual gain was less with the US dollar getting stronger with respect to the euro every day. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Within fifteen years, from 1803 to 1818, nearly half of the German-speaking universities disappeared which may be described as the great Universitätssterben ("die-off" of universities).  Among the talks given at the Ott Fest, a colloquium on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of Professor Hugo Ott, the presentation by Sandra Haas was the most lively and interesting one.

Emperor Joseph's decree (©Sandra Haas)
Throughout its history Freiburg's university was threatened with closure. In the second half of the 18th century the quality of teaching was bad at the Albertina. So it was no surprise that Emperor Joseph II also mentioned Freiburg when he decreed the closure of half of the six universities on Habsburg territory. While the University of Innsbruck was downgraded to a lyceum and Brno was closed, Freiburg miraculously survived.

Four waves of  "die-off" of universities in Germany (©Sandra Haas)
Sandra Haas told the audience that starting in 1803 one may distinguish four closing waves that swept over German universities. The first blow to their existence came in 1797 when the Second Congress of Rastatt resulted in a peace agreement between the French Republic and the Holy Roman Empire. In this agreement all German territories left of the Rhine River became French. Under French rule the cities of Löwen, Trier, Mainz, Bonn, and Cologne closed their universities.

German universities in 1797 (©Sandra Haas)
The next wave started on February 25, 1803, when the German princes who in 1797 had lost their territories on the left bank of the Rhine were finally "compensated" in the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (German mediatization). Most of the land for their compensation was "gained" by secularizing ecclesiastical principalities and the sometimes vast territories of monasteries. So the prince-bishoprics of Bamberg and Fulda were dissolved and lost their universities while the city of Dillingen became Bavarian and the new sovereign downgraded its university to a lyceum.

In the same year Hercules III of Modena took possession of the Breisgau that Napoleon had imposed on him in the Treaty of Campo Formio compensating the duke for his territories lost in Northern Italy. As the Freiburg university officials feared the closing of the Austrian Albertina they sent a letter to Emperor Franz II begging for the preservation of the university. When the Freiburgers learned that the senile Hercules had appointed his heir and son-in-law, the Austrian Erzherzog Ferdinand, as regent of the Breisgau the letter fortunately became obsolete.

A third mortality wave swept over German universities during the years of Napoleonic rule, i.e., the time between 1806 and 1813. Only two new universities were founded during that period both at the expense of closing existing ones. When the University of Berlin, later Humboldt University, was founded in 1810 Frankfurt on the Oder was closed. Likewise, the foundation of the University of Landshut in 1801 was nothing else than a shift from Ingolstadt on the River Danube to the city on the River Lech. However, Landshut's university did not last long. Already in 1826 King Ludwig I moved the university to the Bavarian capital Munich.

German universities in 1818 (©Sandra Haas)
The fourth wave came in the aftermath of the Congress of Vienna. A "bad" example was Prussia that due to its territorial acquisitions was confronted with many "new" old universities. The universities of Duisburg, Münster, Paderborn, Wittenberg, and Erfurt overstrained the financial possibilities of the Prussian state and were closed.

The Congress of Vienna also confirmed the existence of the Grand Duchy of Baden that was suddenly faced with two existing universities: The Calvinist Ruperto Carola in Heidelberg of 1368 and the Catholic Albertina in Freiburg of 1457. In fact, Baden was in a difficult political situation with a Protestant population in the north while the acquired Breisgau was mostly Catholic. As Freiburg's professor and poet Johann Georg Jacobi wrote, it became more urgent to "marry" Baden's Protestant North with its Catholic South than to worry about universities.

Already in 1806 Elector Karl-Friedrich was asked to close one of the two universities but he answered: By no means, they do not belong to Baden alone, they belong to mankind. The following year, as a precaution and preventively, Freiburg's university officials offered the title rector magnificentissimus to their sovereign.

Now, following the Congress of Vienna in 1816, Baden's financial constraints were even greater. The government in Karlsruhe told a delegation from Freiburg that one university in Baden was sufficient. Being compensated by a Catholic bishop and the permanent stationing of a garrison Freiburg should not complain.

Titlepage of Karl von Rotteck's Promemoria (©Sandra Haas)
In this messy situation Freiburg's professor Karl von Rotteck wrote a Promemoria (memorandum) in which he stressed that the elongated form of Baden's territory justified two universities. Also, competition between the Ruperto Carola on the River Neckar and the Albertina on the River Dreisam would be good with respect to the quality of teaching. Baden's governor in Freiburg, Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Friedrich Freiherr Drais von Sauerbronn, added the argument that the study of theology should be Catholic in Freiburg and Protestant in Heidelberg.

On January 23, 1818, the relieving message arrived in Freiburg: an explicit ducal order guaranteed the existence of the university. When in 1820 Grand-Duke Ludwig granted the Albertina a yearly government subsidy of 15,000 guilders the thankful university officials asked their sovereign for his gracious permission to rename Freiburg's university: Albertina-Ludoviciana, vivat, crescat, floreat ad multos annos.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Freiburg's Coup With a Cup

Coffee to go has spilled over the Atlantic with the result that one-way paper cups are littering (vermüllen) German cities. While in the States many customers of coffee shops take their personal permanent mugs along thus avoiding the pollution of the environment in Germany this is rarely the case.

Nevertheless, President Obama was seen on his latest and last visit* to Berlin with a presidential paper cup.
*He said he would like to come back as a private person to visit the Munich Oktoberfest

On another occasion: President Obama stepping off the plane is
greeting the Marines with a latte in a presidential paper cup
while Michelle is possibly appalled (©CNN).
You will not find this collector's item in the street.

The presidential paper cup (©The Paepae)
The City of Freiburg decided to reduce the volume of garbage caused by paper coffee cups and introduced the Freiburg Cup, a plastic cup with an one euro deposit that you may return to any coffee shop participating in the program. These cups are washed and may be reused 400 times except for the cap that for hygienic reasons still ends up in the waste. This Achilles heel has already given rise to critics. Another point of moaning concerns the one size only uttered by people who like to drink lattes by the liter.

Freiburg Cups (©BZ/Rita Eggstein)
Overall Freiburg brought off a big coup. The success is overwhelming. The 5000 cups initially ordered disappeared in one day not into the landscape but as a collector's item. Freiburg's environmental mayor immediately ordered another 10,000 cups with many more coffee shops going to introduce the Cup in Freiburg.

With all the publicity municipal officials are sure that other German cities will follow Freiburg's example soon. When shall we see the Federal Cup not to be confused with the Federation Cup?

Monday, November 14, 2016


Companies are happy when their brand names become generic names. When I started work at CERN I remember that adhesive tapes not only those made by 3M were called Scotch while in Germany I had been accustomed to the generic Tesa produced by the German firm Beiersdorf. Another example is Tempo in Germany generic for any Papiertaschentuch (paper handkerchief) which the Americans call Kleenex.

The German firm Kärcher produces high-pressure cleaners using hot or cold water. Due to their high quality Kärcher products are successfully exported to many countries. In the UK the umlaut (Tüttel) on the a is simply left out as in the case of an earlier export: Georg Friedrich Händel became George Frideric Handel.

In France they write Karcher without umlaut, too, the syllabic stress moving to the last syllable. The French even went so far as to form a new verb karcher (premier group de conjugaison). Instead of saying "cleaning something with a high-pressure water jet", they karcher the object. The Kärcher company was delighted.

In 2005 during the time of a youth rebellion in France the verb karcher became highly political. The then Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy heated up the political climate by insulting the young Maghreb demonstrators as racaille (scum) and declared qu'il fallait «nettoyer» les banlieues au Karcher (one needs to "clean" the suburbs using a Karcher). Sarko proposed to karcher subjects instead of objects; so far so bad. From that moment on karcher became a synonym for cleaning the suburbs.

Where is the Karcher? (seen on Facebook)
Last month and with regard to upcoming elections in France Kärcher sent a letter to all political parties and presidential candidates asking them not to use karcher in their campaign in the meaning karcher les banlieues. The answer Kärcher may expect is the same they already received when they sent a similar letter in 2010: We do not understand the excitement. Using the verb karcher is free publicity and means that your products are efficient and of good quality. Kärcher would rather do without such a publicity.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Quo Vadis, America?

Is Professor Koschut covering his face?
Wohin steuert Amerika? Only two days after the presidential election Professor Simon Koschut of the Free University of Berlin dared to speak about the future US foreign policy, a topic where even our Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confessed: Nichts Genaues weiß man nicht (It's all so confusing). As you may imagine, the auditorium was fully packed.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump made this statement
with respect to the fight against internal and external terrorism.
When, following his talk, Prof. Koschut was asked whether he had actually prepared a lecture B beforehand he answered: About Hillary's foreign policy I would have given the talk off the cuff.

Results of a poll show that Republicans rate President Obama's foreign policy as bad. So in his lecture B Prof. Koschut cautiously interpreted Donald J. Trump's statements during the election campaign and discovered many contradictory remarks that make a prediction of America's new foreign policy difficult.

With respect to the Middle East will Trump increase the bombing of ISIS and give carte blanche to Assad and Putin at the same time? Sending ground troops into the already burning powder keg - something Hillary was occasionally accused of - is unpopular in the States.

Already now the US have a military budget that is bigger
than that of all those other countries mentioned taken together
Whether America's resources are totally over extended is doubtful as far as the present military spending of the US is concerned. Increasing the defense budget and at the same time lowering taxes will necessarily incur new debts. Raising of the US debt ceiling? No problem, given the Republican majorities in both houses. The stock market is soaring in view of new investments and as I learned German firms hope for a fat share too with their expertise in wall-building.

America is going to be strong again but those countries protected by the American shield shall pay for it. High-paid NATO officials in Brussels are already deeply worried about their posts rather than about the future of the defense alliance.

©Der Spiegel
An unpredictable nation? At least Prof. Koschut assured the audience that President Trump cannot revoke the Paris Climate Protection Agreement but he can block its application.

©Der Spiegel
When congratulating President-elect Donald Trump, Chancellor Angel Merkel laid down the rules: Germany and America are bound by common values: democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation or political views. Cooperation with the United States, she said, must be based on these values.

My Bundestagsabgeordneter (member of parliament) Gernot Erler said in an interview: My hope is that the American institutions and moderate fractions of the Republican party will hem in (einhegen) the new president.

We all know: Hope dies last but let's wait and see.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


During the past US election campaign I learned a new German word: postfaktisch. In 2010 the term was coined by David Roberts, a blogger, in the context of post-truth politics describing a debate that is based on passion and emotion rather than reason and evidence. In fact, the word post-truth is clearer than the construct post-factual.

Der Sonntag, Freiburg. Photo©AFP
The post-factual concept is multilayered and should not be confused with "simple" lies. Fact is, facts play no longer a principal role in political debates for "facts" derive from a Lügenpresse (lying press). It no longer matters whether a candidate for political office tells the truth as long as he sticks to statements his followers like to hear and will swallow. When the press is no longer the main source of information social media take over where everybody (even bots) can write what he/she likes and thus influence the vox populi.

The die is cast. This morning I was watching television. At 8:29 a.m. Donald J. Trump was still missing one electoral delegate, at 8:30 a.m. the Wisconsin result came in, and: Habeamus principem! One US journalist expressed his hope: Our system of checks and balances will save the American democracy. Franz von Papen made a similar statement in 1933.

As I stressed in my previous blog, the similarities between Germany's past and America's present are depressing. This morning Bill Clinton's slogan, It's the economy, stupid, hit back, when Trump announced his victory. I will double America's economic growth, he said. I will not only renew our infrastructure but make it better. I will be fair to our allies and friends, but America first. In his statement he left out the wall for, according to him, the Mexicans will build it and this without creating new jobs in the States. Anyway, the march of angry Republicans on Washington is no longer necessary and therefore cancelled.

This morning Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Donald Trump, appealing to the old and venerable American democracy while the European political establishment keeps its fingers crossed. On the other hand, American experts said on television that with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress not only the Supreme Court justice to be appointed will be conservative but with the political change government officials in Washington will be replaced by Republican-minded staff down to the last clerk.

How will domestic economical growth go along with the creation of jobs? In 1933 following the Machtergreifung (Nazi takeover) Reichsbankpräsident Hjalmar Schacht prohibited the foreign exchange of the Reichsmark and started printing money for the construction of autobahns and above all for German re-armament. These actions more than halved unemployment in the Weimar Republic, i.e., from 5.7 million in 1932 to 2.1 million in 1936. Financing government expenses by loans? With majorities in both houses of Congress it will be easy for a Republican president to have the the US debt ceiling raised.

Will America honor its climate goals? Donald Trump does not believe in climate change.