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Sidewalk SUVs and Freedom Fries

•  The Wall Street Journal writes about "Sidewalk SUVs": "Motorized scooters for the disabled are finding a lucrative new market: People just sick of walking." Related: SUVs undermine US foreign policy

•  Superfrenchie, an interesting blog about "French-bashing America", writes that the "U.S. Congress surrenders!" based on a report in the Washington Times that the congressional cafeterias do not list French Fries as "Freedom Fries" anymore. Superfrenchie opines: "I'm not sure something ever made the U.S. look as foolish, petty, bigoted and intolerant than renaming French fries to Freedom Fries. By an act of Congress no less!"
More shocking news: "Germany Faces French Fries Fiasco", writes Deutsche Welle: "Farmers' representatives recently announced that Germany's fabulous summer did horrible things to Teutonic tubers. There's less of them -- about 20 percent are missing."

Using the United States to Scare Germans

"Amerikanische Verhältnisse" means "American conditions" and is a quite popular phrase to scare Germans about hire-and-fire capitalism, poverty, crime, health care etc. Olaf Gersemann, currently with Financial Times Deutschland, wrote a book about it in 2004. The German original is called Amerikanische Verhältnisse. Die falsche Angst der Deutschen vor dem Cowboy-Kapitalismus and the English translation is Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths, American Reality.
Liberale Stimme has written a Review in German. Synopisis from the publisher:
Europeans and many American pundits believe that while the U.S. economy may create more growth, Europeans have it better when it come to job security and other factors. Olaf Gersemann, a German reporter who came to America, found the reality quite different. He checked facts and found the market freedoms in America create a more flexible, adaptable and prosperous system then the declining welfare states of old Europe.
Just last week (August 4, 2006) the semi-tabloid Berliner Zeitung chose "Amerikanische Verhältnisse" for the headline of an editorial about the growing gap between the rich and the poor in Germany and the increasing unfairness (income, wealth, education, health care). The editorial did not analyse the economic conditions in the United States, but only dealt with the socio-economic trends in Germany and concluded that American conditions are now reality in Germany as well. A closer look at the socio-economic situation in the United States (just like in Germany) would reveal good and bad aspects, but only the bad aspects are featured in the phrase "Amerikanische Verhältnisse." Some German papers write about the good aspects of the US economic system, many papers and politicians recommend more U.S. type reforms, and the term "American Dream" is still popular and still has a good ring to it, but whenever the phrase Amerikanische Verhältnisse is used, it sounds really bad, because it excludes what is good in America.
Bret Stephens wrote in The Wall Street Journal in January:
Amerikanische Verhaltnisse--"American Conditions"--is a term of disdain in German politics, meant to suggest the inhumanity of American capitalism. Press reports repeatedly portray the U.S. as a place in which the have-nots are savagely exploited by the haves, where civil liberties are in rapid decline, and in which a government that is by turns buffoonish and cunning schemes to gain control of world oil supplies.
(Mr Stephens' interesting editorial covered Chancellor Merkel's visit, her criticism of Guantanamo, and the German public's views of the US. Unfortunately, he misunderstood a poll and wrote "One-third of young Germans reportedly believe the Bush Administration instigated the attacks of September 11." More about this in the Atlantic Review in about two weeks.)

Amazon Germany sells Olaf Gersemann's book in German (1) and the cheaper English translation (2). Amazon USA has the English translation (3):
(1)
  (2)               (3)

In May 2006 the conservative Die Welt used the phrase Amerikanische Verhältnisse in the headline to express the concern that companies could be confronted with a flood of law suits due to the new anti-discrimination law in Germany. The United States is popular for references or comparisions. The Netherlands or Denmark, which had pretty successful reforms, are sometimes mentioned as role models, but do not get as much coverage as the US.
The Economist wrote about successful tough welfare reform two weeks ago:
Welfare reform was once regarded as a harsh, right-wing, America-only idea. But an unexpected lesson of the past ten years is that it enjoys much wider political appeal. Within America, its success has silenced the former fierce opposition of left-wing Democrats, which Mr Clinton had overruled. For the Labour government in Britain and for social democrats in Europe, reform offers a way to reintegrate people who would otherwise live in a welfare apartheid. Furthermore, it is a way to defend generous support for the poor—as long as they find work.
Hat tip for the Economist article to Don, who also summarized another Economist article.
A related post in Atlantic Review:
Germany in danger of "Americanization" without the good points.
A related post in Medienkritik's Unemployment: Kannapolis Instead of Chemnitz.

NATO's Increasing Involvement in Afghanistan

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the US led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) have separate mandates and missions. Although ISAF took over the command of Afghanistan's South from OEF, ISAF will continue to focus on its stabilisation and security mission whilst OEF will continue to carry out its counter-terrorism mission. However, the South is still (or again) a dangerous Taliban stronghold...

According to ABC News: The alliance's 8,000-strong NATO deployment in the South includes some U.S. troops and will be under the command of British Lt. Gen. David Richards. Officials said Richards effectively becomes the first non-U.S. general to command American forces in combat operations. (NATO does not yet have all of the planned 8,000 troops in the South.) Australia, Britain, Canada, Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Romania are also contributing troops to the ISAF's Southern Command.

The Bundeswehr is not in the South, but Germany contributes by far the most troops to ISAF in general. The Associated Press graphic on the right is based on NATO sources and counts a total of 10,500 troops as of July 22nd. NATO, however, states: "From 31 July, NATO-ISAF is leading some 18,500 troops from 37 countries in Kabul, the north, west and south of the country and running 13 Provincial Reconstruction Teams. This is NATO’s first and largest ground operation outside Europe."

The US-led OEF coalition retains responsibility for Afghanistan's East. Afghan and coalition forces there conduct regular combat patrols to defeat the Taliban and related movements, and the coalition will also retain its counter-terrorist mission throughout Afghanistan.
According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer (HT: Joe):
The Pentagon announced Wednesday that a combat brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., will deploy to Afghanistan late this year as part of the next rotation of forces. The deployment, to include the 82nd Airborne headquarters staff and various unidentified support units, will total about 11,000 soldiers, the Pentagon said. The announcement gave no indication that this would represent either an increase or a decrease in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, which currently stand at about 22,000. At a Pentagon news conference, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that based on his visit last week to Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan he is optimistic about progress in Afghanistan. Regarding troops levels, Pace said, "The U.S. contribution has stayed stable and will remain stable." Late last year the Pentagon said U.S. troop levels would be reduced by 3,000 this year, but that has not happened, mainly because the Taliban armed resistance has stepped up its attacks, particularly in the volatile southern areas.
Those southern areas, however, are now mainly NATO's problem.

Germany wants to woo Syria away from Iran and Hezbollah

Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Olmert told the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he would like to see German troops in South Lebanon, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in an interview last week that at the present time she does not support the idea of German troops being part of a peacekeeping contingent in Lebanon. In addition to the obvious historical reasons, the Bundeswehr's capacity is largely exhausted: "We are in Congo, we provide the most troops in the Balkans, and we have our largest contingent in Afghanistan."

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier considers it crucial to involve Syria in any negotiations, while Washington so far refuses to talk to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. (Shortly after the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers, Olmert asked Germany to negotiate with Hezbollah, since the German Intelligence Service suceeded in negotiating prisoner exchanges in the past.)
Germany is prepared to offer Syria economic incentives to woo the country away from Iran and seek a broader diplomatic solution to the Middle East crisis. Steinmeier said: "Syria must decide for itself if the country wants to follow Iran down its path to self-destruction."
U.S. Fulbright Scholar Joshua Landis argues in his SyriaComment blog: "Syria has a big role to play. Trying to shut it out of any agreement will only guarantee that future cease-fires are temporary and fragile."
Fulbright Scholar Raphael Cohen-Almagor is the Director of the Center for Democratic Studies in Haifa (North Israel) and provides background on the Hezbollah War and the Israeli government in his blog Israeli Politics.

Ralf Fücks, member of the executive board of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which is affiliated with the German Green Party, wants to see Israel in NATO, because he believes "Membership in the transatlantic defensive alliance would give Israel the political and psychological assurance to agree to an historic compromise with the Palestinians by which both sides reciprocally recognize each other as sovereign states." He also hopes that this leads to a nuclear-free zone in the Near- and Middle East. Sounds all more like whishful thinking. Iran vows to produce nuclear fuel despite the recent UN vote, while NATO got even more involved in Afghanistan by taking over command of the dangerous south from the United States. NATO will have some 8,000 troops on the ground in the south - almost double the American force, but less helicopters.

German-American Relations Carnival on September 24th

The German Liberale Stimme and the American Dialog International will host the next carnival and seek submissions. Both bloggers suggest interesting topics, but everything on German-American relations is very welcome. The Atlantic Review organizes these quarterly carnivals and provides the Carnival Submissions Blog, which automatically displays the latest submissions. Liberale Stimme and Dialog International will select and present what they consider the best submissions.

Previous German-American carnivals were hosted by Davids Medienkritik, Statler & Waldorf, American Future, GM's Corner and Atlantic Review.
To give you an idea of what carnivals on other topics are like, you can visit Blogcarnival.com or check out these carnivals, in which the Atlantic Review participated:
Carnival of Bad History
Carnival of the Liberals
Mediocre Media Carnival
Carnival of the Vanities

American Bloggers in Berlin

• Michael Scott Moore is a Fulbright journalist starting in September and blogs at Radio Free Mike. His most recent post is about President Bush's unsolicited massage of Chancellor Merkel.

• Christy Leonardo blogs at Anglofritz "serving you the transcontinental Zeitgeist." Recently Christy wrote about US ads featuring Germans. USA Today has learned that "A spate of recent ads featuring Germans is putting a humorous spin on a culture not generally known for being lighthearted" and that "Humor rules in several German ads with oompah."
 
• Clarsonimus is an "amnesic American lost in Berlin," who writes about "the natives" in Observing Hermann. Recently he wrote about the deal hunters chasing Wal-Mart out of town.
 
• Scot W. Stevenson writes the only American Expat blog in German that I know of. In USA Erklaert, he explains how the USA works. Recently he explained how a law is passed, what real popcorn is, what the origin and meaning of wingnuts and moonbats is and discusses the different doorknobs in the US and Germany.
 
• Chirol is one of three editors of Coming Anarchy, an excellent blog about world affairs with some great graphics. Germany is not their main focus, but here are a few posts about Germany: The Magical Merkel Tour, Merkel on Iran, and Germany’s Past Military Deployments.
 
• The Exberliner is not a Blog, but a popular Expat magazine in Berlin.

•  Besides, there is Berlin Blogs, a blog aggregator featuring additional German-language Blogs and English-language Blogs by Berliners from all over the world.

Beyond Berlin:
With 211,000 American expats, Germany is the fourth most popular country for Americans (excluding military personnel). There are just 13,000 more Americans in the United Kingdom than in Germany. The top two countries are the U.S. neighbors Canada and Mexico. I learned this from Republicans Abroad Germany. This volunteer organisation is dedicated to
conducting non-partisan voter registration for U.S. citizens residing in Germany, including assistance with absentee ballots for U.S. federal elections; voter outreach including providing information about Republican policies and candidates; promoting the principles of the U.S. Republican Party through hosting events, fundraising and public outreach; representing U.S. citizens living in Germany in the political process in the United States; and strengthening German-American relations through intercultural exchange and dialogue, including working closely with German organizations and media outlets.
•  Republicans Abroad Germany has started to recommend interesting articles as many bloggers do. Therefore they are included in his list of bloggers. Their rationale is:
The articles are not selected to reflect the views of RA Germany or its members, but to add to an environment of real intellectual diversity by amplifying Conservative perspectives. In the real world policy is about difficult choices and trade-offs. Transatlantic relations would be well-served by less simplification of the challenges before us and more serious discussion of the actual dilemmas we face.
The Democrats Abroad Germany do not provide much information online.

•  Another interesting non-Berlin based American expat blog is J Bittner's Germany Doesn't Suck or Does It? He is organizing the Second Whiney Expat Bloggers in Germany Meet Up.

Obviously there are many more great expat bloggers. Please feel free to recommend one in the comments section, incl. your own blog, if you like.

To Talk Turkey (Tacheles reden)

Here are a few reading recommendations featuring some harsh words:
• The Heritage Foundation about President Bush's trip to Germany:
German public opinion is still largely hostile toward U.S. foreign policy, and anti-Americanism remains a major force in German politics.
Hostile? Major Force? If that is an accurate description of German public opinion and politics, how does the Heritage Foundation describe the situation in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Iran or many other countries?

• The Canadian paper Macleans has a long article about Angela Merkel with the peculiar headline "The most popular German leader since, well..." Here's an untypical quote from that article:
The Germans are used to taking abuse from the British tabloid press, whose schoolboyish journalists seem to be locked in a 1940 time warp. Germans are routinely described as "Krauts" and "Fritz," and one newspaper's photo spread of supposedly the ugliest girls in Germany featured women with black Hitler moustaches airbrushed on their faces.
How Would A Patriot Act?: Defending American Values from a President Run Amok  By Glenn Greenwald • Glenn Greenwald, author of How Would A Patriot Act?: Defending American Values from a President Run Amok (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), writes in his popular blog about some Neocon responses to the war between Hezbollah and Israel:
The mindless casualness with which such people blithely advocate starting a new war -- like it's no different that deciding what one will eat for dinner tomorrow -- is breathtaking.
Too Much Cookies has a video of the popular comedian Stephen Colbert pretending to talk to a Guantanamo detainee:
You were innocent. Four years ago! This place has changed you. I mean all that time, you’ve been kept in a cage without trial - aren’t you a little angry?