Thursday, February 21, 2019

Must lose weight

In an earlier blog, I dealt with the Holbeinpferdchen located on a small lawn triangle just around the corner from my apartment. The sculpture of a foal is frequently painted and repainted.

The Holbein horse in January 2006 (©BZ/Ingo Schneider)
Due to the many paint shops since 2006 the slim concrete sculpture created by Werner Gürtner became a heavy cold blood horse so it was time for a reducing diet.

The same sculpture in January 2019 (©BZ/Lisa Petrich)
At the end of my previous blog, I mentioned that the last time the layers of paint were removed was in 1997. Since then the expertise how to do the job had been lost so experts were scratching their heads.

Now apparently the solution was found for yesterday morning the Holbein horse was removed from its location.

Das Pferdle shows the call to vote No in the referendum next Sunday 24 (©BZ/Patrick Kerber)
It was lifted from its pedestal with the help of a small excavator and - secured with belts - moved on a small truck for transport to a stonemason's workshop at Freiburg-Haslach.

On the hooks (©BZ/Patrick Kerber))
All the layers of paint - several centimeters thick - will be removed. “It will take a little longer," said Martina Schickle, press spokeswoman for the city.

Those thick layers of paint (©BZ/Patrick Kerber)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Wall After the Berlin Wall

A couple of days ago Red Baron had an aha-experience. The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) projected the trace of The Wall POTUS insists so much on in its total length (3200 km) unto a map of Europe. The WAZ wanted to give its readers a feeling of how long The Wall along the Mexican border really is compared to the Berlin Wall. Readers were even invited to move the trace of The Wall arbitrarily around on the European continent.

©WAZ
When choosing Paris as the western starting point of the imaginary wall I suddenly realized that its trace follows nicely the track of the traditional Orient Express.

©Wikipedia/Arjan de Boer
Remember Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express? Detective Hercule Poirot was on the luxury train from London on his way to Istanbul* in the 1930ies touching Paris, Strasbourg, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Munich, Vienna, and Budapest.
*It was in 1930 when the Turks renamed Constantinople

Remember the song?

Istanbul was Constantinople.
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople.
Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way.
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks.

Back to Poirot's train ride. Hercule did not get to Constantinople because an avalanche stopped his Orient Express deep in the Yugoslavian wilderness. However, it is intriguing to note that on today’s map the railroad track following the imaginary trace of The Wall abruptly ends at the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

Conspiracy alert! It certainly must have to do with the fact that POTUS and HEPOT (His Excellency President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) although partners in NATO are no friends. While the latter wants to eliminate the Kurds in Iraque, the former likes to protect those eager fighters needed against ISIS. Fact is, the Kurds thriving for a State of their own - in the manner of the late 19th century - are, as on previous occasions in history, again caught between two stools.
*Already in 1892 German fiction author Karl May as traveling Kara Ben Nemsi wrote about those rifle loving men in his novel Durchs wilde Kurdistan (Roaming in the wild Kurdistan)

©Wikipedia/Arjan de Boer

Monday, February 18, 2019

Schwarz-Rot-Gold

Today, 100 years ago, following the proclamation of the Weimar Constitution the National Assembly declared the combination of black, red and gold as the German national flag.

Red Baron wrote about the German colors before and simply would like to remind you that schwarz-rot-gold was flown for the first time in 1832 when a patriotic crowd marched from the town of Neustadt to the Hambach Castle.



A Neustadt native, Johann Philipp Abresch, carried the Tricolore with the inscription: Germany's rebirth. The marching people demonstrated for freedom of the press and of assembly, demanded German unity, a confederate European republic, and equal rights for women !!

The ravages of time gnawed on the gold 
The Urfahne (original flag) was indeed made from threads of gold instead of showing colored dark yellow. It is kept as a national shrine and on display at Hambach castle.

Next, the colors of freedom of the 1848/49 revolutionaries were black-red-gold although in those times their sequence still was a matter of luck.

Invitation to stitch flags in the order Gold., Roth., and Schwarz.
 for a patriotic rally in Freiburg on March 23, 1848.
Unlike in the States, Germans are still somewhat shy showing "their colors" but they should be reminded that black-red-gold never stands for nationalism but for a united, free and democratic Germany.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Fake News

diesseits und jenseits des Atlantiks (on both sides of the Atlantic) was the title of the February Stammtisch of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft. As in previous years, Red Baron opened the series of Stammtisch introducing the subject.


According to Wikipedia fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. The article also contains the term "Lügenpresse", specific for Germany. Lügenpresse goes back to the revolution of 1848, was widely used by the Nazis, and is cheerfully celebrated by PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident).

Wikipedia continues: False information is often caused by reporters paying sources for stories, an unethical practice called checkbook journalism. The news is then often reverberated as misinformation in social media, but occasionally finds its way to the mainstream media as well.

Where rumors used to make their local rounds, nowadays fake news spread across the globe in a matter of seconds via social media. Some serious news media such as the BBC, POLITICO, or The Economic Times run special columns with a headline "Fake News".

During the 2016 US presidential election, journalists noticed an increase of invented stories on Facebook that became viral. Strangely enough, most of the stories came from the Balkans. At that time a small town called Veles in Macedonia was identified as a nest. One of the fakers told a visiting BBC reporter team, "Americans love our stories and we make money from them. Who cares if they are true or false?"

In December 2016, Hillary Clinton gave a speech in which she condemned "the epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda flooding the social media", and went on. "It's now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences," not yet thinking that she would lose the election.

There even are special fake news authors like Christopher Blair called the godfather of fake news who once launched the following message: "Clinton Foundation Ship Seized at Port of Baltimore Carrying Drugs, Guns, and Sex Slaves." Such news is eagerly absorbed and spread by social media. But isn't Christopher Blair fake too?

Nowadays the web is also full of so-called deep fake videos, manipulated videos, that make KGB’s* black and white photos on which disgraced party officials were retouched look old.
*former Russian secret police

I shall spare my American readers the list of fake news spread by POTUS in the State of the Union speech just one day before FMG’s February event although they were mentioned and commented by those present at the Stammtisch in the following discussion. The NYT analyzed the "alternative news" in SOTU so I refer you to the article. Isn’t it a sad fact that the relevance of fake news has so much increased in post-truth politics?

Let me give you a recent example of fake news from Germany instead. You may have read that our car-loving nation is deeply traumatized by the dieselgate scandal. Our auto industry has cheated on its customers by manipulating the exhaust emissions of vehicles with diesel engines. In some cases, the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) turned out to be an order of magnitude higher than the limits laid down by the European Union (EU) and cast into national law.

One of the consequences of these higher NOx emissions was that many air measuring stations in cities located at thoroughfares showed immission* values in the air above 40 µg/m³ the concentration limit for members of the public in the EU.
*NOx emitted from an exhaust pipe is "immited" into the atmosphere

These high air concentrations of NOx already lead to driving bans for "dirty" diesel engine cars in some cities notably in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg’s state capital. Therefore diesel car lovers cast envious glances at the States where the immission limit prescribed by EPA is 103 µg/m³. On the other hand, the emission values for cars in the States are stricter than in Europe, i.e., 70 mg/mi (≈43 mg/km) versus 80 mg/km. Such low values can only be reached by a selective catalytic reduction of NOx with the help of urea called AdBlue technic in Europe.

With the burden of the dieselgate still heavy on their shoulders German car manufacturers held back with arguments regarding an increase of the European immission level, but don't they have any allies?

Lung specialist Dieter Köhler and EP deputy Peter Liese (©BZ)
A manifesto against the current NOx limits signed by 100 lung specialists came just in time. Spokesman Dieter Köhler commented on the "pollution lie": "Whether the concentration limit is 40 or 100 micrograms makes no difference. I have not seen anybody who died from NOx". Late night show hosts took on Köhler's remark: "After all, dead people can no longer present themselves in a consultation hour."

Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) immediately took up the manifesto and described it as an important initiative to bring objectivity and facts back into the diesel debate. "The scientific approach has the weight to overcome the approach of prohibiting, restricting and annoying".

The chairman of the Free Democrats (FDP) Christian Lindner doubled: "We can no longer allow mobility and key industries to suffer because purely ideological concentration limits are pursued".

The transport expert of the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) Dirk Spaniel felt astonished that "only under pressure from a whole armada of medical specialists is pressure exerted on the absurd concentration limit policy of the CDU/CSU and SPD government coalition."

All three gentlemen are hereby contradicted:

1. There is too much approach in Scheuer’s statement and Köhler's criticism of the current concentration limit is purely polemic and definitely not a scientific approach.

2. The present concentration limits of NOx and of fine dust in the air are not at all ideological but are based on recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and were adopted by the European Union (EU). Germany has made the concentration limits legally binding in its 39th Bundesimmissionsschutzverordnung (Federal Immission Control Ordinance).
*My English speaking readers will love that word

3. There is too much pressure in Spaniel’s statement. The present limits have nothing to do with the policies of CDU/CSU and SPD but are: see under 2.

More than 5500 specialists are organized in the two societies of adult and pediatric pneumologists, the German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine (DGP) and the German Association of Lung Specialists for Children and Adolescent (GPP), of whom just 1.8% of its members have signed the manifesto. They are not an armada.

The GPP wrote "We stand behind the recommendations of the WHO. 70,000 scientific publications prove the harmful effects of NOx and fine dust on health. For 30 years, the WHO has regularly checked the limits and confirmed the "correctness (?)" of the 40 µg/m³ concentration for NOx. The limit primarily serves to protect risk groups such as children, pregnant women, and the sick."

The President of the European Pneumological Society (EPS), the Professional Association of Pneumologists (BdP) and the DGP also clearly contradicted the "100" who have shed doubt on the present limits, "The questioning of scientific statements in general terms, without citing evidence, is not serious. Anyone spreading public doubts about the harmful potential of air pollutants without quoting scientific work violates the principles of medical-scientific ethos"... and spreads fake news, I like to add.

Köhler was unimpressed. On the invitation of Peter Liese, member of the European Parliament (EP), he went into the lion's den, to Brussels and became virulent with respect to the concentration limits for NOx and fine dust, "Not a single German was consulted or medically examined. The risks found are in the percentage range. Smokers are exposed to concentrations that are one thousand times higher."

Yes, most of the smokers know about their risk of smoking and accept it. In order to defend his standpoint on the imposed concentration limits, Köhler used the far-fetched argument that other factors were given too little weight in previous studies. People with lower income have an unhealthy lifestyle - large nicotine and alcohol consumption - and frequently live on pollutant-loaded thoroughfare roads.

While in Brussels, Köhler clashed with Holger Schulz, an epidemiologist at Munich's Helmholtz Centre. According to Schulz, the body reacts to the smallest amounts of pollutants with inflammation so the negative effects of low concentrations are disproportionately serious.

Listening EU Commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella was untouched by the dispute. He considered the present limits to be scientifically sound and even pleaded for a lowering of the existing values.

Meanwhile, the government coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD agreed that driving bans should only be appropriate if the annual average air pollution exceeds 50 µg/m³ of NOx instead of 40. Since Germany and France are the two supporting pillars of the EU it is no wonder that four days ago the EU Commission accommodated the Federal Government in the dispute over concentration limits and diesel car driving bans. The Commission decided that it had no objections to the coalition's plans to take a more generous approach to the concentration limit for NOx.

Last year's concentration levels at Freiburg's thoroughfare, the Federal Highway 31, were 49 µg/m³. Aren't we lucky that the coalition government plans to pass a law "allowing" 50 µg/m³ as soon as possible? Therefore driving bans in Freiburg are off the table.

To complicate things further. Köhler himself now admits that some of his calculations are incorrect.  Even so Federal Transport Minister Scheuer sees no reason to dissociate himself from Dieter Köhler, ”The manifesto of the lung specialists has reopened the debate on the European NOx limits.”

Red Baron shakes his head.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Vale senex magister civium !

This morning: Signing the book of condolence at Freiburg's Alte Gerichtslaube (Old courthouse)
Freiburg‘s former lord mayor Dr. Rolf Böhme died on February 12.

Chancellor Helmut Schmidt supporting the bid for Freiburg's mayor of his former state secretary,
 party comrade, and friend in 1982. In the back young Gernot Ehrler (©Heinz Wurzer/BZ)
Elected in 1982 and re-elected in 1990 and 1998 the social democrat served 20 years as Freiburg's lord mayor until 2002 when Green Dr. Dieter Salomon took over.

Dr. Dieter Salomon newly elected first Green mayor of a major city in Germany
on election night in 2002 with wife Helen and "former" mayor Dr. Rolf Böhme (©BZ)
During Böhme’s first term of office NATO and Warsaw Pact had serious confrontations over the deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe. NATO’s Double-Track Decision resulted in mass protests mostly by young people in Germany and neighboring Europian countries.

Disarmament negotiations that started on November 30, 1981, remained without conclusion. When the German Bundestag agreed to the deployment in 1983, the Soviet Union aborted the talks.

Eventually, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on December 8, 1987. It provided for the destruction of all middle range weapons and ended an episode of the Cold War until the INRF treaty was canceled recently.

During that turbulent period, the idea was born that Freiburg should establish a partnership with an American city and a city in the Soviet Union. Rolf Böhme a dedicated advocate of international understanding and détente supported the move wholeheartedly. Following a visit of a delegation from Freiburg headed by him, Madison, the Capital of Wisconsin was chosen in the case of the States. Lord Mayor Dr. Rolf Böhme and Madison’s Mayor Joseph Sensenbrenner signed the partnership agreement on May 31, 1988. Frauke Feix, vice president of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft, has extensively described Dr. Böhme’s merits for the partnership between Madison and Freiburg.


Elisabeth and I met Rolf Böhme and his wife at a private dinner arranged by a friend in 2004 where we had a lively conversation. Later I met the retired mayor and honorary citizen on several occasions and frequently in the street for we were neighbors. Whenever he had time we had a friendly chat.

Leberle mit Brägele (Roasted fine cut liver and sliced onions with fried potatoes as a side dish), is a specialty of the region. One evening Elisabeth and I were eating with some friends at a nearby restaurant that offers Baden cuisine. When I read "Leberle" on the menu my choice was clear but I became deeply disappointed when the waitress told me that Leberle ist aus (is no longer available).

Enter Rolf Böhme with his wife and friends seated at a nearby table. Suddenly he stood up, approached our table smiling, but complained bitterly, "You ate my Leberle!" on which I told him that my chagrin was as great as his and even a few minutes older.

When suddenly due to a severe illness Dr. Böhme had to live in a nursing home I missed our street contacts. I saw him last in the film Weltweite Freundschaften when he, sitting in a wheelchair, commented on his Freiburg-Madison partnership.

This morning: Freiburg's flag in mourning at the town hall. 

R.I.P. Rolf Böhme

Monday, February 11, 2019

Berlin is not Weimar

was the title of a talk by Germany’s Nancy Pelosi. Yes, Freiburg-born Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) is president of the Bundestag, i.e., the speaker of the German parliament. As such he holds the second highest office in Germany after the federal president.

Dr. Schäuble’s political career is impressive. With his 77 years, he now is the oldest member of the Bundestag but still young compared to Wisconsin State Senator Fred Risser. Schäuble is one of the major architects of German unity. You may like to read more about Wolfgang on Wikipedia.

Knowing that the topic of Schäuble’s talk would attract many people Red Baron arrived at the university’s main auditorium one hour early only to find that the Audimax was already fully packed mostly with young people. Eventually, I found one free seat somewhere in the middle. My neighbor to the left was a freshman studying law with whom, while waiting, I had an interesting discussion whereas to my right an old mumbling man was seated.

The speaker arrives in his wheelchair
while Freiburg's young Lord Mayer is greeting those sitting in the first row.
Germany has seen three attempts to introduce a democratic constitution. The first one following the revolutionary movements of 1848 was adopted by the Frankfurt Parliament in 1849 but did not find the approval of the majority of the states forming the then German Federation. The rejection of the Frankfurt Constitution ended in the restoration of kings and princes.

On April 3, 1849, Frederick William IV of Prussia declines the imperial crown offered
to him by a delegation of the Frankfort National Assembly mocking
it as a parliamentarian dog collar having the slutty smell of revolution.
The king added that the offer was nothing else than an imaginary bait baked from dirt and clay.
The second attempt of 1919, the Weimar Constitution, was progressive* and liberal. The Minister of the Interior Eduard David called the Weimar Republic the most democratic democracy in the world although it turned out that it was a democracy without democrats. The republic was destroyed internally, crushed between left and right-wing parties within the framework of the conditions following Germany’s defeat in 1918, as there is the humiliating Treaty of Versailles blaming the country with the sole guilt of war as well as the global economic depression with its unemployment and the resulting poverty. The Weimar Republic ended in the Nazi dictatorship.
*introducing women’s suffrage. The NYT published the full text of the Weimar Constitution in an English translation.

The President of the Reich Friedrich Ebert and
the President of the National Assembly Constantin Fehrenbach, a Freiburger,
hail the promulgation of the Weimar Constitution at the balcony of the Weimar theater on
August 19, 1919: Es lebe die Republik! (Long live the Republic!).
It only lived 14 years.
The third constitution of 1949 called Grundgesetz (basic law) was the work of democrats having survived the Third Reich. They were carefully watching that the constitution of the Federal Republic not only was liberal but that the democracy was well-fortified. In 1949 the founding fathers and mothers created a Grundgesetz that unlike 1919 defends the freedom and self-determination of the individual, a basis that even the largest majority in parliament cannot eliminate.

A Federal Constitutional Court watches that the political parties at the Bundestag stick firmly and unconditionally to our constitution fully accepting the core values of our society. Since 1949 several new parties both left and right-wing had been judged as unconstitutional and were outlawed. Note that in the present Bundestag a left post-communist Die Linke and a right populist AfD are seated. Both parties nervously assure their loyalty to the Grundgesetz mantra-like while our Constitutional Court monitors their activities vigilantly.

In the first years of our Federal Republic, the political circumstances were favorable. The economic growth called the German miracle provided for a fair division of wealth so that the Grundgesetz became firmly anchored in the minds of the people.

Although objectively the prosperity was never so large as nowadays, the so-called Berlin Republic is not free from being endangered. The angst of the future with its digitalization and globalization is strong on the minds of many citizens. According to Schäuble responsible politics must slow down rapid changes and take people's anxieties with respect to the loosening of social ties seriously. Communication between people must be strengthened but on a personal base and not via social networks.

One important aspect of the Grundgesetz is that it limits the arbitrary rule of the majority and protects minorities. This requires respect for other opinions nowadays frequently disregarded in many discussions and above all on the Internet. Controversial discussions must never end in hate speech but in an appeasing compromise.

Dr. Schäuble talking to a fascinated audience in an overcrowded auditorium
In view of those “modern” trends, Schäuble reminded the predominantly student audience that without the committed support of democrats there will be no democracy. “Although during the 70 years of its existence the Federal Republic was not even near to the situation of the Weimar Republic, we must remain vigilant”, Schäuble ended his much-applauded talk.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

White Supremacy

The Imperial spiked helmet in a sandy color













Last week Red Baron attended a book presentation at Freiburg’s old Ratssaal (council chamber). He was lucky getting one of the rare seats still left.

Four Musketeers Professor Bernd-Stefan Grewe, Johannes Theisen, Heiko Wegmann, and Markus Himmelsbach introduced their book Freiburg und der Kolonialismus (Freiburg and its Colonialism).


The glorious four in the order as mentioned in the text showing their book.
Red Baron is sitting in the second row undoing his red scarf. What else? (©Rita Eggenstein/BZ)
The authors have accomplished an astonishing document. If in a southern Baden city the interest or better the enthusiasm for German colonies - particularly following their loss after the First World War - was so overwhelming how was it like in other more directly affected cities near the coast?

It seems that Freiburg is the first major city where a reappraisal of Germany’s colonial past was seriously undertaken. In the course of the evening during the presentation of the four authors, I realized more and more that even today an attitude of white supremacy not only is widespread in American minds.


When I worked at CERN (European Laboratory for High-Energy Physics) I was living in a house in a Geneva suburb. One of my neighbors was a professor of economics from British Guyana holding a high position at the WHO (World Health Organization). He was married to a charming lady from Jamaica who was an English teacher at Geneva’s International School. The couple had two daughters about the same age as my children and as the four kids went to the same French college we parents rapidly became close friends.

In those days my mother took the then 12-hour train from Hamburg to Geneva to spend her summer holidays with us. She had been brought up at a Westphalian farm in a strict Catholic faith with seven brothers and one sister.

When one evening our neighbors invited us to a grill party my mother became quite nervous telling Elisabeth, "Ich kann doch einem Schwarzen keine Hand geben" (I cannot give my hand to a black person). Later she shook hand with Harvey and Jennifer when we entered their house and even enjoyed practicing her English* with our hosts.
*She had learned English only after the war with the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), "Lernt Englisch mit dem britischen Rundfunk."

While at CERN I was frequently invited by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Vienna to serve as an expert in radiation protection. In those working committees, we sometimes had to draft educating documents for developing countries. I still remember the outcry of the chairman when one participant on the committee talked about underdeveloped countries.


Back to the colonialism in Freiburg. The enthusiasm for Ostafrika (Tanzania), Deutsch-Südwest (Namibia), and Kamerun was strong in all social classes already before the Great War. Merchants made big profits on Kolonialwaren (colonial goods), the churches were collecting money focused on the conversion of Heidenkinder (pagan children), and even the working class although condemning the exploitation and the bad treatment of natives in Germany's colonies wanted to keep those territories by all means.

A handful of distillers, military suppliers and shipowners have the benefits
from the colonial policy, all others experience only damage.
The Social Democrats would like to reach out their hands to a colonial policy that
is pursued in a cultural sense benefitting the German people.
But we will always do all that we can to resist a colonial policy
where cruel officials torture negroes to death and
unscrupulous speculators and traders cheat the natives out of their belongings
so that the latter are driven to rebellion.
In the Weimar Republic, the Kolonialfrage was only a secondary political battleground but still. A highlight in Freiburg was the 50th anniversary of the Reichskolonialtagung (Imperial Colonial Conference) combined with a colonial exhibition in 1935. Although the then Nazi rulers celebrated the day as a national event it had been Lord Mayor Karl Bender of the Catholic Centrum Party who had paved the way for the event already in 1932.


When in 2019 I see French troops keeping order in their former African possessions should I rejoice, " Thank God that we Germans lost our colonies already in 1918?". Not really. Presently German troops are in Africa helping our friends from outre-Rhin.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Steve, a Thread to Europe?

Bosom buddies?
Remember Steve Bannon? Jobless in the States Trump’s former idea provider* is roaming Europe in view of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament.
*Rumor has it that it was Steve who gave Trump the idea of building a south-western wall.


Steve offers himself as a campaigner to the right populist parties in various European countries with a special message in mind.“The heart of the globalists beats in Brussels. If I hit the stake through the vampire, everything will disappear”, he told the Guardian.

What the hell! Europe is none of your damn business! Is this his attempt to regain his former boss's esteem or has (fake news) POTUS asked him to help destabilize the EU? I am inclined to shout right into Steve's face the classic slogan, “Ami go home”.

Nationalist Modrikamen
This, however,  is not as easy as it seems for Steven has a satrap residing in Brussels: Mischaël Modrikamen, president of the foundation „The Movement“. Mischaël openly preaches that Europe should disintegrate or rather fall back into nation-states, a situation that has plunged the continent into a nightmare during the first half of the 20th century.

Bannon with  Italy's Salvini ...
... and with Hungary's Orban
So far France’s Marine LePen, the Netherland’s Geert Wilders, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, and Hungary’s Viktor Orban wholeheartedly accepted Steve’s electoral support. Only Germany’s AfD shows anxiety to the stranger that Chairman Jörg Meuthen expressed.

Hesitating Meuthen 
When the AfD drew up their list of potential deputies for the European Parliament the candidates said, "When we are elected we will do everything to destroy our job". 

More hate towards Europe is not possible.

All pictures are ©ARD

Monday, January 28, 2019

130

km/h or 80 mph is the speed limit that a working group of the Ministry of Transport has proposed for German autobahns. The mandate of the group was to consider ways and means of reducing the emission of carbon dioxide in transport activities. It was just one of the many recommendations the group has forwarded but the outcry among German drivers was loud as expected. Had they not been promised Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger (Free speed for free citizens) when previous proposals to limit the speed on the autobahn had been made?

The offending traffic sign (©RijschoolPro)
Even Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer - although he had set up the working group - said that the recommendation of a speed limit sei ge­gen je­den Men­schen­ver­stand (is against all common sense).

Andreas Scheuer looking at speed limits in other countries:
Irresponsible. Against all common sense (©Stuttmann).
Cem Özdemir, a leading German Green politician, stepped up the discussion contradicting the minister saying that on the contrary, a speed limit is a Gebot der Vernunft (matter of common sense). He added, "The discussion of a speed limit in Germany is a bit like discussing the right to bear arms with Americans." With only a slight majority in favor of a speed limit in a recent poll, our nation is deeply divided on the issue.

Red Baron’s car will accelerate to more than 120 mph but I rarely go faster than 80 mph on an autobahn*. I do not accept the argument of the adversaries of a speed limit: On about 40% of the autobahns, there already are speed limits while on the other 60% you may drive as fast as traffic permits ... until you get stuck in a Stau (traffic jam). The adversaries argue that while the motor is idling the CO2 emission is bigger than when driving more than 130 km/h on stretches with only minor traffic.
*Being an old man I only drive about 3000 miles in a year covering long distances rather by train at speeds up to 186 mph

Heavy traffic on the Inn-Autobahn. No chance of even driving 130 km/h (©dpa)
Red Baron has driving experience on motorways in France, Italy, Switzerland, and the US. I always enjoyed the stress-less driving when all vehicles move at a moderate but synchronized speed. In those countries, neither gas is wasted nor CO2 emitted by useless acceleration and braking as on German autobahns where a few people drive hard to gain a couple of minutes going from A to B.

Yesterday the Federal Government decided that free citizens will keep their free speed.

I rather think, "It is high time that Germany’s holy cow is slaughtered."

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Damian

Since 1970 and nearly every Sunday night since, a show called Tatort* (crime scene) has been running on German television during primetime and is still popular. Sometimes more than 10 million viewers nationwide follow the episodes, in which various teams investigate murder cases in various German cities as well as in cities in Austria and German-speaking Switzerland.
*When I lived in Geneva watching French-speaking Swiss television, a lady once announced the evening program of the German-speaking program in presenting the series as, "T'as (Tu as) tord", meaning "You are wrong."

Red Baron has given up wasting his time watching Tatort except for episodes featuring two teams that investigate in Mannheim or Münster, i.e., six evenings in a year. Here my interest is solely aimed at the actors. In Mannheim, an initially demure investigator has developed over 19 years into a skinny middle-aged lady. In Münster, a detective superintendent and a forensic doctor form a permanently quarreling couple à la Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

In the spring of 2018, German television shot the Tatort episode #1075 titled Damian in Freiburg, and some of the scenes were set in the fraternity house of Burschenschaft Franconia* just across the street from my apartment. For two weeks the film crew turned night into day. As fraternity students helping as extras told us: Some of the scenes were shot twenty times, so that in one case filming of a day scene only finished at 4 a.m. Daylight in the interior was guaranteed by brightly illuminating the front of the Franconia fraternity house.
*The other fraternity, Teutonia, lives in the house beside my apartment. Red Baron has reported about this Burschenschaft on two occasions.

Street in front of the Franconia house during the day
Same at night
Your broadcasting license fee for a good program.
In Germany, all households pay a compulsory monthly fee for
the reception of two public service television channels, ARD and ZDF.
Both programs are nearly free of commercials.
So Damian is watched without any interruption.
The light pollution affected the whole neighborhood, so it was to be expected that last week Franconia invited those concerned to an evening of television presenting Damian on a big screen.

On-screen: Damian dancing with his girlfriend.
In the other room Franconia's bar.
An eerie dinner scene. Damian, sitting at the head of the table,
 is serving wine to his girlfriend on his left.
We started with an aperitif followed by a guided tour of the premises where scenes were filmed and ended with beer and potato chips during the presentation of the Tatort. With great astonishment, we noted that the film crew had remodeled the interior of the house completely to match the new plaque at the entrance of the fictitious Landsmannschaft Brankia. All photos are screenshots that I took during the introduction of Damian at the Franconia house.

New Landsmannschaft Brancia ...
... and its colors.
Tatort Damian has all the odd ingredients of a modern crime movie: The schizophrenic law student and main character Damian, an overworked detective superintendent and her always-tired male assistant, a somewhat older tennis trainer and his teenage trainee being shot while in the act, a transvestite as prime suspect shooting selfies while wearing female underwear, Damian's father shattered because his son had refused to take over his inn located in the Black Forest, a devoted mother making the best cake far and wide, Damian's rich girlfriend hoping for more than just a couple of actions in bed, and a charred body in the remains of a Black Forest cabin.

It was an evening well spent in a hospitable company.

The film crew left a souvenir:
"The banner is Brankia"

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Fridays for Future

It all started in Sweden in August 2018, when Greta Thunberg cut classes, camped in front of the Swedish parliament, and protested against the inactivity of governments with respect to climate change.

School strike for the climate (©Der Tagesspiegel)
Her protest became viral, and so last Friday pupils all over Germany left their schools marching in protest through 60 inner cities. Their motto: "Fridays for Future". The largest protest rally took place in Freiburg, where 3500 pupils cut classes although school officials had warned them about consequences. Mind you, in Germany education in official schools up to the age of 16 is compulsory.

Yesterday Red Baron was in town but only saw the protest march from behind. So here are some photos all copyrighted Badische Zeitung.

St. Martin's Gate in the background.
Most of the banners were in English.
One banner was not very original, while the other,
"Why should we learn if we have no future", was pessimistic.
Some  banners were witty but only in German,
"Kale instead of lignite (Green cabbage vs. brown coal)"
"Hey! It‘s our future"
Even some teachers preferred a "system change to climate change."
Will there be future demonstrations?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Rosa

was not rose but rather deep red. On this day, 100 years ago right-wing Freischärler (irregular troops) murdered Rosa Luxemburg and her comrade-in-arms Karl Liebknecht in cold blood in Berlin.

Rosa Luxemburg on a German stamp of 1974
A little bit of German history. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the strongest party at the Reichstag was in a dilemma. On August 4, Emperor Wilhelm II had declared, “Henceforth I know no parties I know only Germans”. This so-called Burgfrieden (a truth between the emperor and all German parties) made it difficult for the Social Democrats (SPD) - although in essence being pacifists - not to vote in favor of the requested war loans.


However, Karl Liebknecht (the son of SPD founder Wilhelm Liebknecht) and Rosa Luxemburg prominent members of the left-wing faction of the SPD voted against because they believed in an international revolution of the proletariat overthrowing capitalism, imperialism, and militarism even during the war. Later they called their movement the Spartacist League.


On March 7, 2014, the eve of Europe’s catastrophe Rosa visited Freiburg and gave a speech. Roger Chickering in his famous book, “The Great War and Urban Life in Germany” describes her visit as follows, “To the consternation of the non-Socialist press, she packed the Festival Hall (Festhalle), the largest hall in town. Here she delivered an impassioned attack on class inequality and German militarism.”

She started out confirming that in times of peace she had been condemned being a pacifist, “I was sentenced to one year in prison in Frankfurt for what the prosecutor and the court considered to be a criminal act. This action consisted in my shouting to the workers on both sides of the border: Thou shalt not kill!”

She continued denouncing the social climate in the late years of the German Empire, “Living in Germany in a time of the most terrible unemployment when tens of thousands of industrious, honest proletarian families do not know what they will feed their hungry children tomorrow an official government representative declares: Not the support, not the feeding of these hungry is the lifeblood of the state, but barracks, bayonets, and spiked helmets are its lifeblood.”

She ended, “We turn to all the working people, to whom we say: All of you, you are millions, you men and women of labor, you pay taxes to preserve the state and the wars and the military. It is you who will send your sons into the fire and you will have to shoulder all the troubles and pains when a war will stop the calm economic and cultural development not for years but for decades. It depends on you to veto this breakneck policy of the ruling class.”

Chickering continues, „Few in the audience took the provocation as seriously as did the public prosecutors, who initiated legal action against the visitor for sedition and subversion, but 280 people did join the local Social Democratic party in the wake of her speech ... Her exuberant reception in Freiburg illuminated other features of life in town: resentments over massive poverty and social inequality, the persistence of labor strife, and the lingering isolation of the Socialist labor movement itself.“

Rosa's continuous efforts to convince Germany's proletariat of an anti-war general strike resulted in her and Karl Liebknecht’s imprisonment in June 1916. Liberated by an amnesty at the end of the war both revived the Spartacist League,

The League organ, Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag).
On November 9, 1918, Liebknecht declared the formation of a Freie Sozialistische Republik (Free Socialist Republic) from a balcony of the Berliner Stadtschloss, two hours after Philipp Scheidemann's declaration of a German Republic from a balcony of the Reichstag.

Liebknecht’s Free Socialist Republic was nothing else than a German-Soviet republic (Räterepublik) along the Russian model although Rosa sharply criticized the Lenin administration with respect to the freedom of the press. Her pamphlet contains her famous dictum “that the rule of the broad masses is completely unthinkable without a free and unimpeded press, without an unhindered life of associations and assemblies ... Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for members of a party - as numerous as they may be - is no freedom. Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently".

Rosa Luxemburg's speech at the Gründungsparteitag (founding congress) of the KPD
On January 1, 1919, the Spartacus League was renamed into KPD, the German Communist Party. Later in the month, still dreaming of a Räterepublik, Rosa and Karl participated in the so-called Spartacist Revolt against the existing government. With the help of right-wing militia, the Social Democrat and Chancellor Friedrich Ebert had squashed the uprising brutally.

Workers, citizens!
The fatherland is doomed. Come to its rescue!
 It is not threatened externally but internally by the Spartacus League.
Beat to death their leaders!
Kill Liebknecht!
Then you will have peace, work, and bread.
The front-line soldiers.
Wikipedia reports, “By 13 January, the uprising had been extinguished. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were captured by Freikorps troops on 15 January 1919 and brought to the Eden Hotel in Berlin, where they were tortured and interrogated for several hours. Following this, Luxemburg was beaten with rifle butts and afterwards shot, and her corpse thrown into the Landwehr Canal, while Liebknecht was forced to step out of the car in which he was being transported, and he was then shot in the back. Official declarations said he had been shot in an attempt to escape.

The division continues into modern Germany. On the one hand the SPD that in the course of time has achieved so many benefits for the working class and keeping well in mind not to kill the milk-producing cow (capitalism), on the other hand Die Linke that rightly points the finger to those social inequalities in a rich society as there are single mothers with too low an income, homeless people who cannot afford the high rents, and retired persons who do not know how to live on their mini-retirement pensions.

Aufstehen! founder Sahra Wagenknecht (©Aufstehen!)
Who likes aufstehen (to rise)? Does a yellow vest carried in front of the Federal Chancellery help?