German Politics

The Sarrazin affair: Pissing against the wind.

Getting rid of Thilo Sarrazin as a Bundesbank board member is the political equivalent of pissing against the wind.

This is not going to end the – scientifically absurd and thus intellectually already fnished – debate about possible genetic reasons for the lack of social integration of some ethnicity, it’s gonna kickstart it, although with a different focus: now it’s about freedom of speech, political correctness running wild, and a government praising the “independent decision” of its independent central bank – that statement alone is more harmful to the Bundesbank than anything ever said or written by Thilo Sarrazin. Does anyone read press statements in the Chancellor’s press office? Unbelievable.

Of course, using well established genetic similarities among a majority of Jewish people to prove an unproveable point about ethnically hereditary abilities is going to cause – and rightly so – some major stir in Germany and will dequalify Sarrazin for any serious debate. But that doesn’t mean that debate will stop by firing him… quite the opposite. It will only prove that the German political establishment is willling to be held hostage by someone who makes scientifically ridiculous statements, because it is afraid that the public at large is not able to see through it. It’s a very painful lesson about the way the German political establishment is afraid of its own voters.

And that, quite frankly, is the truly sad realization of the Sarrazin affair.

Datenschutz, German Politics, Germany, internet, privacy

“The privacy and integrity of information processing systems”

Striking down state (Land) legislation from Nordrhein-Westfalia that allowed the use of trojan software to spy on individual’s computers, the German constitutional court (Bundesvrfassungsgericht) has derived from the fundamental legal premises of the German constutiton a new basic right to “privacy and integrity of information processing systems” (my quick and dirty translation). As a basic right, it can only be infringed given very specific circumstances – in this case, the court explicitly mentioned “specific” threats to the life and liberty of individuals, or “concrete” threats to the state.

It will obviously depend on legislative interpretations of the court’s ruling to see whether it’s possible to speak of a “loophole” in the basic right, as Spiegel Online English does. My guess is not, as politicians will not want to get slapped in the face by the Constitutional Court again, and the court will rule on two more privacy related cases soon.

While the court’s ruling will have to be studied in detail to understand its intentions more clearly, this is clearly a landmark decision with respect to the question of how to balance the state’s desire to gather information to protect its citizens and ensure the rule of law with the citizens’ right to privacy.

The Chaos Computer Club’s Andreas Bogk’s, who serves as an expert at the court, likenes the verdict to the census ruling in 1983, which derived a basic right to informational self determination and paved the way for privacy protection legislation. (German) has everything and then another link and quote regarding the verdict and the unfolding media coverage.

Some more links in English – BBC, WSJ, Bloomberg.

music, USA

Australia will be next – ‘Tokio Hotel’ in New York.

When I had a drink with friends in Sydney’s Darling Harbour quarter, no one native to the red continent understood why I had to chuckle when I read the bar’s name – Tokio Hotel. Well, they may soon, as Kelefa Sanneh, writing in the NY Times about Tokio Hotel’s first concert in New York City (‘A wild welcome to German teen-pop band’), believes that the number of teenage girls screaming the name of the East German teen band’s singer will rise dramatically following the band’s US album release in April.

“If this concert was oddly delightful from start to finish, thank Bill Kaulitz, who should, with any luck, be thrilling and perplexing young Americans for the rest of the year.”

If the French experience is worth anything (links in German), I suppose the German foreign ministry is already busy allocating additional funds to pay for more German teachers at the Goethe Institute in New York. It seems, German is indeed getting sexy again. Even if not popularized by the likes of Grass or Jelinek, but by

“that gender-bending singer, who answers to the disappointingly unglamorous name of Bill Kaulitz.”

The New York Post’s Danica Lo even sat down with the band and, lovingly, but still true to the paper’s style, asked what their plans for world domination are. Have a look at her video report, it also features some interesting fangirl statements…

German Politics, Germany, US Politics, USA

Bush in Bild

For those of you, gentle readers, who do not engange in in-depth analysis of Germany’s tabloid newspapers, here’s a transcript of the US President George W. Bush’s interview with Kai Diekmann of BILD here’s the edited German version published by BILD. They met in the Oval office and discussed, among other issues, the rug-choosing dilemma every leader of the free world is facing. At least this one knows how to delegate.

Oh, and there’s a chance the US forces on German soil will have to do more than singing Karaoke in local Irish Pubs soon: Via SFGate, I noticed, that the President is not entirely sure about the state of democracy in Germany…

Zeroing in on the United States’ ties to Germany and recalling that German troops did not help attack Iraq, Bush admits: “I’ve come to realize that the nature of the German people are such that war is very abhorrent, that Germany is a country now that is — no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, Germans are — just don’t like war…. The point now is how do we work together to achieve important goals. And one such goal is a democracy in Germany [sic].” (The White House published its transcript with Bush’s glaring error and called attention to it.)

A part of the American blogosphere, on the other hand, was most excited to finally learn hrough the interview that President Bush’s best moment of all was

“when [he] caught a seven and a half pound perch in [his] lake.”

A little fishy, indeed.

I’m starting to wonder if we’re gonna miss him, after January 2009…

Bürgerrechte, German Politics, Germany


Es hat ein wenig gedauert, bis sich bei der vor der Verbreitung von PCs überaus wachsamen, aber schließlich durch den Umgang mit “bunten Bildchen”, bzw. dem WWW, in Bezug auf Datenschutz abgestumpften Zivilgesellschaft ein Problembewußtsein eingestellt hat. Aber – besser spät als nie. Nach dem gläsernen Bürger bei Maischberger wird sich nun auch Gerd Scobel heute Abend ab 21 Uhr in 3Sat Delta der Problematik annehmen.

delta diskutiert die Möglichkeiten und Gefahren von neuen Technologien und analysiert einige Netzwerke des Datenaustauschs. Welchen Wert hat das Selbstbestimmungsrecht in Zeiten der Globalisierung und der Terrorismusbekämpfung? Wie ist die Freiheit der Privatsphäre mit dem Informationsbegehren von Kontrollorganen zu vereinbaren?

Mitdiskutieren werden Claudia Eckert, Informatikerin, TU Darmstadt, Winfried Hassemer, Vizepräsident des Bundesverfassungsgerichts und Per Ström, Experte für Datenschutz.

German Politics, Germany, photoblogging

357 Magnum?

Schon beim ersten Blick auf dieses Plakat habe ich mich gefragt, warum der Typ vom CDU Wahlplakat eigentlich eine Riesenknarre über der Schulter trägt. Oder eine Abschußvorrichtung für Boden-Luft-Rakteten. Da muß man sich doch Fragen stellen.

Aber es ist natürlich alles halb so wild: der gute Mann ist Handwerker und trägt natürlich nur seinen Hobel spazieren. Wer macht das nicht ab und zu. Und plötzlich macht das auch alles wieder Sinn: die CDU war schließlich schon immer die Partei der Hobelspazierenträger.


It can happen everywhere.

Seriously, Thuringia’s state premier Althaus, one of the most unpleasant “attention junkies” in German politics, has invited a proponent of intelligent design theory for a debate with an evolutionary biologist in a state-chancellory-sponsored debate called “Erfurter Dialoge”.

So, it can happen here, too, apparently. While declaring that the “prominent invitees” do not always (sic!) represent the views of the inviting state-chancellory , their press statement calls the debate a ” forum for high level discourse about questions of our time.”

Well, at least that’s debatable. Then again, as Mario Sixtus notes in his blog today, it’s good to have open minded politicians. Sixtus quotes an open letter to Mr Althaus from the German section of the recently founded Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, calling for an invitation to said debate, “as there is clearly more than one concept of Creationism.”

The Church’s Brother Bucatini, signing with pasta-esque greetings, also offers an inspiring explanation for global warming: There is a clear statistical correlation between the declining amount of pirates since 1800 and the rising average temperature.

More context (all in German): FR-Blog, Stern

Economics, Germany, photoblogging


Ladenschluß.Shopping from midnight to 4am, in Germany. It’s possible – at least for promotional reasons. Last Saturday, a couple of hundred of local retailers celebrated the “night of the senses”, during which shops were allowed to open. Apparently, the project’s revenue was satisfactory, as 100,000 people decided to postpone their shopping from Saturday afternoon to Saturday night. Interestingly though, the shop-closing-law exeption was one of the measures intended to indemnify local retailers for the loss of revenue suffered during George W. Bush’s visit to Mainz in February. So, even inadvertendly, the American government is advancing their economic agenda…

Germany, oddly enough, traveling

The Need For Speed.

speed.gifThe German Embassy to the United States publishes a newsletter called TWIG (as in “This Week in Germany”), mainly aimed at the American public, that more often than not features little known gems, news that’s news only in the eyes of true connaisseurs – like you my gentle reades.

Last Friday, TWIG published a story about Germany becoming an important destination for nascent Chinese mass tourism – as Germany is the first Chinese-government-tourism-approved European country. A fact in itself somewhat contradicting the Financial Times’ Berlin correspondent who, according to another government sponsored article, can see Germany becoming

“‘the new France,’ a country where joie de vivre has not yet been unraveled by atrocious prices and the danger of airline strikes.

Claims like this always make me cite Elle Woods, the only person who can counter such statements on the appropriate level – “Whoever said that Orange is the new Pink was seriously disturbed”.

Now, Chinese masses tucking into Sauerkraut may not in itself be a sufficiently interesting subject for a mainly American audience. So no wonder, the article’s hook is something as famous in the US as it apparently is in China: the Geman Autobahn. I once had a vivid discussion with an American friend about the mythology of German motorways, while driving on an American one that is just as famous over here: Highway 66.

In the end, I wasn’t able to convince my friend that German highways are – for the most part – speed regulated. That most German cars aren’t Porsches, and that, while Michael Schuhmacher may be distorting the average, most Germans haven’t driven a car at 200+ km/h.

But then again, so much has been demystified about Germany that it might not be a bad thing to keep some legends alive… (whole story in the extended section).

Germany, oddly enough

Not Even Sarcasm.

Usually, I’m less critical of the current state of the German academic reality than most people. This is probably owed to the fact that my experiences within the German university system were rather positive, for I attended one of its shining models, Mannheim University. But I probably have to face the fact that many, if not most students, certainly in the northern German states, are less lucky – as the following quote from the website “” indicates.

Auf dieser Seite wird den Professoren und Lehrbeauftragten der Hochschule Bremen die Möglichkeit gegeben, ihre Skripten zu veröffentlichen. Dadurch haben die Studenten den Zugriff auf stets vollständige und aktuelle Unterlagen. Dies ist in der Bibliothek nicht immer möglich, da hier vielfach Unterlagen abhanden kommen.

It basically says that the website exists so professors at Bremen University can offer their complete (sic!) lecture scrips to students. The faculty’s or university’s library – for whatever reason – is apparently not able to provide this service.

Should you click on the link to the site, please note the recommendation of Stephen R. Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“. Sarcasm – not usually a German quality, I’d say. So maybe even such a sad state of affairs is good for something… ahh, just reloaded the page and realised their recommendations are rotated by script. So – maybe not even sarcasm.