Sunday, February 26, 2017

Miniatur Wunderland

It is Hamburg's train wonderland located near the Elbphilharmonie. On the Kehrwieder (come back) island, the largest model railway of the world is built on 1490 square meters in a disaffected Schuppen (storage building). The idea started in 2001, and the exhibition has grown since then into Germany's top tourist attraction. In 2016 more than 1.3 million people visited the show. More than 900 trains, the longest one measures 14 meters, run on tracks of a total length of 13 kilometers.

Forty-six computers control 1270 signals and 3050 switches. The train tracks are decorated by 8850 cars, 228,000 trees, 215,000 toy figures, and 3670 houses and bridges. Every 15 minutes, the main light goes off, simulating night scenes illuminated by 335,000 lamps.

Already months ago Red Baron had reserved a time slot for the coveted exhibition which turned out not to be necessary for I arrived at lunchtime. However, when I left around 4 p.m., the place was extremely crowded.

Here are some impressions starting with Rome:

St. Peters's Church with the pope greeting a small crowd

Night views are always impressive. You recognize the Colosseum at a distance.

The Spanish steps

A street scene near the central station Roma Termini

The Forum Romanum

Where are the trains? Here are two Italien long-distance trains.

Night at a small town in Lower Saxony

The Pacific steam engine ist still waiting.

Here the train eventually is on its way into the Harz Mountains.

Helmut Schmidt Airport in Hamburg

A real landing at night

The usual situation at airports: Waiting in line for take-off.

More of Hamburg: Simulated Dammtor Station where all crowned or non-crowned
 heads of states arrive by train and are officially received.

The Elbphilharmonie opened up. Note the simulation of water on both sides.

Scandinavian off-shore oil platform. Ships are floating on real water.

A too narrow Grand Canyon

Ernst Udet, ace of World War I, flying
the Grand Canyon in the 1920ies.

Las Vegas by night

End of January, the people of Miniatur Wunderland built a wall around Las Vegas well ahead of President Trump ... (©Calgary Sun)

.. while in another part of the Wunderland, the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is celebrated.
Quite some Trabi cars try to pass the narrow opening into the west (©Miniatur Wonderland).

Do not worry: The people at Wunderland promised to tear down their wall by the end of February (©afp).

As the French say: Ça vaut un voyage (It is worth the trip).

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Town Halls

Freiburg has a couple of town halls that developed historically. The oldest, somewhat hidden, and less-known building is the Gerichtslaube (courthouse) first mentioned in 1280 and where in 1498 an Imperial Diet held its meetings.

On Rathausplatz in full view are the so-called old and new town halls, the former built in 1557 in Renaissance style while the latter following the acquisition of two older buildings was finished in 1901 in the revival style of historicism.

New and old town hall on Rathausplatz.
The latter is decorated with a color called Ochsenblut (ox blood).
Over time, more space became necessary because a growing Freiburg needed more services and administration. Even the three town halls - nowadays the Gerichtslaube is only used for ceremonial purposes - soon became too small, so many services had to move into several other buildings scattered all over Freiburg. This was annoying not only for the city administration but for the citizens, too, who had to go all over town to get their official businesses done.

Technical town hall under construction (©Wikipedia/Andreas Schwarzkopf)
This is why a new bulding called technical town hall was planned and is presently under construction. The move of all those scattered offices into the new premises was initially planned for November of last year and then postponed to April of this year. Yesterday the city informed the press that it cannot move into the new building before November 2017. It is the technologically complicated suspended ceiling containing air conditioning, sprinkler system, lighting and loudspeakers that is causing the further delay.

Accursed ceiling (©BZ/Ingo Schneider) 
Well, by now we Germans are accustomed to delays and cost overruns at all major construction sites. As the responsible site manager said in his mind-blowing logic: When we build longer than planned the building becomes more expensive.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


is the German word for continuing education. Yes, Red Baron, being responsible for public relations at the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft, eventually went to a course to be formally educated in the skill. Here is my certificate:

The first thing we participants learned was that the aim of public relations work is to build a positive image of an organization or association, make it authentic and likable.

À propos participants. There were only four persons who attended the course for another four did not show up. While one lady was working for the organizer of the course, the other two represented an association for Sterbebegleitung (end-of-life care) and the herb garden at St. Georgen, a district of Freiburg.

Public relations is not to be confused with advertising, i.e., an ad in a newspaper is no press release. With the latter associations in Freiburg are not spoiled for announcements of events in the local newspaper Badische Zeitung generally are lost in two pages of fine print or are not published at all. I recently reported on an exception.

The BZ runs a series Aus unseren Partnerstädten (From our sister cities) but Red Baron's attempts to get articles about Madison into the local paper have failed miserably in most cases.

This year Freiburg's adult education center (Volkshochschule) is coming to the rescue of the partnership organizations. In its summer program it places Freiburg's partner cities into focus. So there will be a Tag der Freundeskreise (Circle of Friends Day) in the premises of the VHS on April 9, where we will present our associations.

Cover of the 2017 vhs catalogue
On March 29, Red Baron will give a talk on a topic that is dear to his heart: Von badischen Revolutionären zu Forty-Eighters. Here is the abstract:

Following the defeat of the 1848 Baden Revolution due to the intervention of Federal troops under Prussian command many revolutionaries fled into neighboring countries. From there Friedrich Hecker, Gustav Struve, Franz Sigel, Andreas Lenz and Carl Schurz moved to the motherland of democracy, the United States, setting up their new existence.

At the outbreak of the Civil War these men joined the Union Army continuing their lost fight at home in the States this time against slavery.

The talk will take place in room 204 of the VHS, Rotteckring 12, at 2000 hours.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Martin Schulz

Schulz who? No, I am neither writing about Charles M. Schulz, creator of Snoopy who frequently shouts: Curse you, Red Baron! nor about Sergeant Hans Schultz a somewhat dumb Oberfeldwebel in the TV series Hogan's Heroes.

The name Schulz or better Schulze refers to the village elder who in the Middle Ages was, as in the case of Freiburg, called Schultheiß, the titel of an elected official serving as a judge: a Schultheiß heißt (points out) die Schuld (the guilt) to the delinquent.

A name even for Germans hard to get used to (©Der Spiegel)
Martin Schulz is no judge but he was mayor of Würselen a small town near Aachen for eight years before he became member and later president (speaker) of the European Parliament in Strasburg. Now after five years he was looking for a new job and it happened - with actual party chairman Sigmar Gabriel dropping out - that the German Social Democrats - Europe's oldest democratic party - were looking for the top candidate in our upcoming federal elections on September 24.

©ZDF/Die Heute Show
Suddenly old aunt SPD is getting a boost. Germany's grand old party forbidden by Bismarck built and defended the Weimar Republic after the First World War. It was the only party that stood up and voted against Hitler's Ermächtigungsgesetz in 1933 (Enabling Act). It now is spreading hope in a world of autocrats.

 With Martin Schulz as designated chairman running for chancellor SPD poll results within a week were up by 7% from a meager 20% while Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats were faced with a 2% decline from 36 to 34%. It looks like a miracle so Der Spiegel portrayed Schulz as Saint Martin.

Candidate Martin Schulz's craving for power (©Der Spiegel)
In its last 2016 issue Der Spiegel wrote about the Gerhard Schröder era. The old chancellor said, the SPD must always claim to rule the country but when looking at depressed party chairman Sigmar Gabriel I could imagine that Schröder ended his wisdom with a quotation from Luther that he had used earlier: Aus einem verzagten Arsch kommt kein fröhlicher Furz (You will not get a joyful fart out of a despaired arse).

Schröder was an egomaniac but he gave to his voters the feeling of a new beginning, of reforms and a better life. He is admired and hated for his Hartz IV reforms pushing unemployed persons back into work by reducing subsistence dramatically for long-term unemployed.

Is Schulz the new Schröder? Der Spiegel calls him an ambitious man but does he have the required experience? The fact that the SPD hopeful has so far not been involved in Berlin politics is an asset but at the same time a disadvantage. Here Schulz may learn from Donald Trump except that Schulz is a convinced European and a democrat. As a former mayor he knows how to speak to the people in simple terms, i.e., in a sort of democratic populism and he can do it is six languages. A dropout in high school and following an apprenticeship as a bookseller he started his own bookshop at Würselen. From then on he read all the books on his shelves.

Schulz MEGA (©Facebook)
For the time being little is known about the future program of the SPD but why not return to the roots of social democracy? While the economy on its way to total globalization continues to wrest power from governments, politicians, and parliaments Martin Schulz will fight for more social justice. And do not forget; Schulz MEGA (Make Europe great again).

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

I Got Mail

Yesterday I was greatly honored by Vice President Mike Pence sending me an e-mail. Amazing, fantastic, unbelievable, I love it:


Today, I cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos.

The vote the President asked me to cast wasn’t just for Betsy – it was also for America’s future.

Our nation’s success depends on the education of our students. In Betsy DeVos, we have one of America’s foremost advocates for educational opportunity and excellence.

For nearly three decades she has devoted her time, her talent, and her treasure to ensure that every child in America has the best shot at a better life. Countless students have benefitted from her efforts to promote an educational marketplace defined by innovation, opportunity, and real, meaningful choice.

The President and I agree that our children’s futures should not be determined by their zip code. Students should not be trapped in a system that puts the status quo ahead of a child’s success

Betsy DeVos will have great impact as Secretary of Education. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a public school, a private school, a parochial school, a charter school, or any other kind of school – she will help ensure that every student has access to a good school.

We are grateful to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and all the Republican Senators who stood with us on this important vote.

The President is fully committed to this mission. Today’s vote was the first of its kind in our nation’s history, but the real history will be made through our unwavering dedication to America’s children – and to America’s future.

Thank you for all your help and support.


Michael R. Pence
Vice President of the United States

Let me tell you that Red Baron is tremendously proud of being a bigly witness of a huge historical event. Just terrific, never heard of a Vice President deciding a vote in the Senate.

In the past Vice President Pence, a studied lawyer and a tough guy, has already shown his braggadocious expertise in educational matters when talking about evolution in Congress. Darwin the loser, totally schlonged, a zero moron, totally overrated, total disaster. Now Pence endorsed Betsy DeVos, She has been treated so unfairly, she is a great person, a winner!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

National Prayer Breakfast

Listening to President Trump's narcissistic speech at the National Prayer Breakfast I developed the feeling of the German painter Max Liebermann. When in 1933 the old man saw the Nazi hordes passing the Brandenburg Gate near his workshop he said in his Berlin dialect: Ick kann jarnich soville fressen, wie ick kotzen möchte (I would like to vomit so much but I can’t eat enough).

This feeling became overwhelming when President Trump said: We had tremendous success on "The Apprentice," and when I ran for president I had to leave the show. That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it, and they hired a big, big movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger to take my place, and we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster and Mark [Burnett] will never, never bet against Trump again. I want to just pray for Arnold if we can -- for those ratings.

There was a mild laughter from the audience. Did Trump rather pray for those ratings or for the man Arnie?

Handwritten title page
of Jefferson's synopsis of the gospel,
the so-called Jefferson Bible.
Jefferson was like a modern Luther comparing
 the text of the New Testament in various languages.
Was he looking for differences?
Later in his address, Donald Trump said that President Thomas Jefferson was a defender of free religion but he failed to mention that the great Jefferson shunned organized religion particularly the Anglican Church pressing for the complete separation between church and state.

While the third president was greatly impressed by the wisdom of Jesus (the famous Jefferson Bible) he had been strongly influenced by the Enlightenment of Locke, Hume, Montesquieu, and Voltaire during his Paris years. Although Jefferson said: God who gave us life gave us liberty nobody called him a Christian but some called him an epicurean.

In a previous blog about A Wicked Company you will find the following paragraph:

Count von Holbach's salon members’ writings became an integral part of how the founding fathers thought about the nascent United States. Jefferson’s handwritten catalogue of books lists not only works by British empiricists such as Hume but also titles by Voltaire and a whole list of crucial books of the radical Enlightenment: the famous De l’esprit by Helvétius (the cause of the 1757 crisis of the Encyclopédie), Holbach’s Système de la nature his Théologie portative (here interestingly attributed to Diderot), a set of Oeuvres philosophiques by Diderot, several anonymous or pseudonymous works such as Holbach’s Christianity Unveiled (“by Boulanger,” in Italian) as well as Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes and Beccaria’s Of Crimes and Punishments, and a wide selection of precursors, such as Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, and Pierre Bayle. Holbach’s Paris library had the same books on its shelves—as philosophers he and Jefferson were speaking the same language. A notion straight from Holbach’s table and the sum of the philosophical ideas defended there is the "pursuit of happiness".

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States clearly shows the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson prohibiting the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. Explicitly this Amendment clearly means that any religion could be exercised in any of the States and implicitly a wall of separation between church and state according to founding father Thomas Jefferson's correspondences in that matter. The precise boundary of this separation however still remains in dispute.

During his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast President Trump mentioned that he will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment: An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. You have much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits.

Separation of church and state? Some Americans even regard a National Prayer Breakfast as unconstitutional.

P.S.: Schwarzenegger responded to Trump's remarks on Twitter saying, Hey Donald, I have a great idea. Why don't we switch jobs? You take over TV because you're such an expert in ratings and I take over your job and then people can finally sleep comfortably again, hmm?

Friday, February 3, 2017


When we set up the 2017 program of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft in January I proposed to discuss the presidency of Donald Trump. The remark of my President Toni was, "On the first of February a Stammtisch about Trump? Ten days are too short. O.K., Manfred you do it."

And I made it calling the topic of the FMG-Stammtisch: The first 10 days of an alternative America. Here is my introduction to the discussion:

Tonight we notice that #POTUS - stands on Twitter for President of the United States - has done more in his first 10 days than many a president in the usual 100 days.

At the moment President Trump governs via Twitter and by executive orders. Twitter replaces press conferences. When the president-elect, i.e., #realDonaldTrump twittered that the new Air Force One was too expensive the shares of Boing faltered. His twittering as #POTUS will have considerably more weight. Here is the latest:

A response to Federal District Court Judge James Robart's ruling temporarily blocking two provisions of the "Muslim Ban" executive order: The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned! - Donald J. Trump twittered via #realDonaldTrump.

Executive Orders (EOs) have been numbered over the last 100 years. So Executive Order 13.765 signed by President Trump interred ObamaCare. What we call Dekrete (decrees) are comparable to laws in the States.

This is how the satirical television show Extra drei pictures
 the great executive ordinator (©NDR)
EOs appear to be vigorous. Since Trump's popular approval in the States presently is only around 45% he tries to convince his critics by telegenically signing EOs with popular topics. Governing via EOS shunting the House of Representatives reminds me of the Notverordnungnen (emergency ordinances) in the Weimar Republic.

This does not seem too bad since EOs must pass the House of Representatives if money is involved. However, in asking the Mexicans to pay for their wall President Trump undermined the budgetary power of the House. If Mexico does not follow through he will levy a 20% duty on all Mexican goods to pay for it. Is that the start of a trade war with Mexico?

President Trump presenting EO 13770 with Vice President Mike Pence (left) and
Secretary of Defense James Mattis (right) applauding (©AFP)
When #POTUS had signed EO 13770 "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States" temporarily suspending entry, regardless of visa, of citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for 90 days and entry of citizens from Syria indefinitely protesters invaded US international airports over the last weekend. Note that Saudi Arabia and Egypt where Trump has business interests are not included in the ban.

When I was watching the protests at Kennedy Airport live on Facebook a young American called the entry ban to the States un-American. Is it un-American or alternative American?

The NYT wrote: President Trump's wave of directives reverses years of American policy on immigration, trade, health care, abortion and the environment.

In spite of an exceptional advertising in the Badische Zeitung the FMG-Stammtisch audience was not big. Were the people scared like two attending American ladies: What is going on in the States? Did other people think that ten days were too short a period to seriously discuss decisions of the Trump administration?

First topic: Why did Hillary Clinton lose? She represented the Washington establishment that already at the time when I was traveling the States was regarded as filthy by many of my fellow scientists. Donald Trump promised a terrific cleanup and to care for those Americans who feel being left behind.

The cleavage of the American society runs between town and country. While the city of Madison voted Democrat the rural state of Wisconsin swung Republican. Trump promised those citizens in left-behind regions to reopen their factories and mines and so it is not surprising that these people were looking for alternatives. Will Donald Trump voters discover that their president, in fact, is part of the establishment and will his supporters soon find out that they jumped from the frying pan into the fire?

If the Trump administration finds the money to build the wall at the Mexican border where does it find American workers? The overall unemployment rate in the States is only 4.8% hence lower than the one in Germany with 6.5% although there are regional differences. Will those people from Alaska (unemployment rate 6.9%) rush to the Mexican border to help to build the wall?

Investing in America's infrastructure is a good thing. Financing should be no problem in simply making more debts. But again where to find the necessary workforce in the States?

Levying taxes on imported goods will be complicated. Trump's plan to produce goods in the States will make them more expensive and thus disadvantage American people of low income. In particular, the auto industry is a global affair. BMW's plant in South Carolina exports 70 percent of the vehicles made there and while Germans do not buy Chevrolets they buy Opels from a factory at Rüsselsheim owned by General Motors.

On the other hand, European leaders understood Trump's message well that NATO countries may no longer base themselves on the States for their defense but must invest more in their own military forces.

We agreed to meet again in three months to rediscuss President Trump and his administration.