A few free and useful last minute gifts: • The Bullshit Protector: Just print the pdf file, grab your scissors and follow the simple instructions. Within a minute you got protection for your ears against all kinds of bullshit. The perfect gift for the next election campaign. Bilingual version available at Dumbapple. (According to Wikipedia and the respected anti-Bullshit site Snopes, it is just an urban myth that Bill Moyer, a 73 year old vet, was seen wearing "Bullshit Protector" flaps over his ears at a speech by Senator Ted Kennedy. Rather it was during a speech by President Bush.)
• The SAIS-Johns Hopkins Center for Transatlantic Relations makes its book "Transatlantic Transformations: Equipping NATO for the 21st Century" available for free as a pdf. Edited by Daniel S. Hamiltion, 203 pages, published in 2004.
• Your friends and family might feel better, after giving "You park like an asshole"-notifications to bad drivers: "So you see somebody parking like an asshole eh? It's pretty simple, print out one of the PDF files and slip it under their windshield wiper." The perfect gift for anybody, who likes Germany's universal jurisdiction law ;-)
• Perhaps they prefer to play some Mozart music? As the end of a full year of Mozart celebrations nears, the musical scores of his complete works have been made available for free by the Mozarteum.
"Chancellor Merkel gets high marks as Germany prepares to lead the EU next year and host the G-8 summit." writes Andreas Tzortzis in the Christian Science Monitor article "Germany's role grows as agenda-setter." I understand that many Americans appreciate Merkel, because they strongly disliked Schroeder, but I am nevertheless surprised, when the Monitor's Germany correspondent opines that Merkel is "able to share George W. Bush's fervor for freedom" because she was "raised in a former communist regime." This seems to be another indication that the so-called liberal US media is not anti-Bush. Besides, Merkel was not a dissident in East Germany. I think most American journalists overestimate the influence, which Merkel's East German past has on her foreign policy. Quote from the article:
While not drastically changing the foreign-policy course set by her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, she has replaced his emphasis on emotional, personal ties with a sort of friendly distance. Raised in a former communist regime, she's able to share George W. Bush's fervor for freedom and still criticize US policy in Guantanamo Bay. In fluent Russian, she can praise Germany's close partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin and then raise questions about Moscow's treatment of NGOs and the deaths of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former spy Alexander Litvinenko. The result, says Hans-Ulrich Klose, a foreign policy expert in the Social Democratic Party, is a head of state who can boast solid relationships with leaders in Washington, Europe, and the Middle East - vital assets in the months ahead. "She addresses critical topics ... but she doesn't do it in the way that the person across from her feels challenged or hurt," says Mr. Klose. "She's not a confrontational person."
It's a good article overall. The praise for Chancellor Merkel, however, is exaggerated. And the fact that the Egyptian president and the Israeli prime minister visited Berlin within two days is not special or new for Germany. (The Monitor makes the mistake of calling Ehud Olmert the Israeli "president.") Phrases like "fervor for freedom" might be popular US election campaign rhetoric, but you don't hear such rhetoric in Germany, certainly not in newspapers. ("Fervor" is American English for the German words: Eifer, Leidenschaft, Inbrunst, Glut.) Nobody in Germany describes Merkel or any other politicians with such phrases. Anyway, it's not fervor that counts, but results. History will judge President Bush by his track record regarding the spread and increase of freedom rather than his "fervor".
• In the New Statesman article "Europe's Saviour," Roger Boyes expresses his preference of Merkel over former chancellors Kohl and Schroeder and argues that Merkel could "shine" during Germany's upcoming EU and G8 presidency, but concludes that Merkel will fail:
Europe is in a leadership vacuum. Ségo versus Sarko in France, an uneasy handover in Britain, Prodi wobbly, post-election Holland and Austria without governments, Sweden moulting ministers, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic all in varying degrees of mess. One could add: a limping White House, and a Kremlin preparing for succession. If ever there was a time for Germany to assert its new-found confidence, this would be it. The economy is recovering strongly. Political opposition is virtually irrelevant, because a grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Christian Socialists can cook up more or less what it wants. And yet Germany's 2007 agenda looks ambitious for an incrementalist such as Merkel. Reviving the European constitution; securing Europe's energy supplies; a more dynamic European policy on the Middle East; an accord with Russia signed and sealed before Vladimir Putin heads off to a retirement job at Gazprom; a firmer line on Turkey; breaking the regulatory grip of Brussels on industry; controlling hedge funds: these are just some of the aims percolating in Berlin. But remember how Tony Blair declared his intention to save Africa, and failed? Angela Merkel is out to save Europe. And failure, sad to say, is almost certain.
Boyes ends with: "Europe, in search of a national leader, will still be searching for one when nice Mrs Merkel has had her year in the spotlight." Well, I don't think Europe is searching for a national leader. The idea that the German chancellor could lead and the rest of Europe follows is ridiculous. Instead, every EU member has to increase efforts to find compromises for various EU issues, make tough decisions and sell them to the public despite domestic resistance. That's how it works. No "national leader" can change that and "lead" Europe.
A New York City couple known only by the names Danny and Nina are running a contest on their Web site, dannyandnina.com, in which visitors vote on where the pair will live for a year. The two promise to relocate to the first American metropolis on their long list that gets a million votes. With nearly 600,000 votes, guess which town is leading the balloting? Plano. It's not a compliment. Plano rocketed to the top of the list after a German television program encouraged viewers to visit the Web site and punish the New Yorkers by sending them to live in Texas. As "Lyzia," a German commentator on the site's message board, put it, "The reason why we [Germans] want them to move to Texas is ... cruelty.
Yes, that's right, the Dallas Morning News wrote an editorial about an episode in a German entertainment vlog. Besides, they got it wrong. a) A bit more is known about the couple. b) Ehrensenf is not a "television program", c) Ehrensenf did not encourage anybody to "punish" the couple by sending them to Texas. Rather than quoting one of tens of thousands of commentators, they should have quoted the Ehrensenf episode about this vote, which just points out that Texas would be recreational for a couple from NY. Ehrensenf does not have anything against Texas, but just wanted to satirically "play God" by encouraging its many viewers to vote for one particular city. If I wanted to imitate the humorless editorial writer, then I would quote one letter to the editors of the Dallas Morning News and then conclude: "Rednecks: Americans laugh at xyz." Imagine the outcry in the blogosphere, if a German newspaper had published an incorrect editorial with such a title. Many Germans might not like a certain politician from Texas, but that does not mean that they dislike everybody and everything else in Texas. In fact, earlier this year, Germans voted for the German country band Texas Lightningto present their country at the Eurovision Song Contest. Besides, some Germans, who used to be prisoners of war in Texas, return for reunions, as Cuppa Politics. UPDATE: dannyandnina.com is currently offline (probably could not handle the traffic from Rocketboom), but they have a blog.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page described the report as a “strategic muddle,” Richard Perle called it “absurd,” Rush Limbaugh labeled it “stupid,” and The New York Post portrayed the leaders of the group, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic member of Congress, as “surrender monkeys.” Republican moderates clung to the report, mindful of the drubbing the party received in last month’s midterm elections largely because of Iraq. They said they hoped President Bush would adopt the group’s principal recommendations and begin the process of disengagement from the long and costly war.
SuperFrenchie points out that accusing someone as a "surrender monkey", i.e. "like a Frenchie", has "gotta be the ultimate insult!":
Defeat and international humiliation is now pretty much the accepted outcome of the Iraq war, and in spite of the fact that they’ve had more than 3 years to get used to it, it’s not easy to swallow.
Crooks and Liars reports about Republican Senator Gordon Smith, who "ripped Bush over Iraq on the floor of the Senate:"
Sen. Smith: "And I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes for supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal" On THIS WEEK, Smith dug a bit deeper to clarify his remarks: "I said it — you can use any adjective you want, George, but I have long believed, in a military context, when you do the same thing over and over again without a clear strategy for victory at the expense of your young people in arms, that is dereliction, that is deeply immoral.
Charles A. Kupchan, Director of Europe Studies at the Council of Foreign Relations writes in the National Interest (Sept./Oct. 2006) about the new era in transatlantic relations after 9/11. Full article available for free at the Council of Foreign Relations. First paragraph:
The Atlantic order is in the midst of a fundamental transition. The transatlantic discord that has emerged since the late 1990s marks a historical breakpoint, not a temporary aberration. The foundational principles of the Atlantic security order that emerged after World War II have been compromised. American and European interests have diverged, institutionalized cooperation can no longer be taken for granted, and a shared Western identity has attenuated. We are at the dawn of a new era in the Atlantic relationship. Rather than trying to recreate the past, the Atlantic democracies should move forward by acknowledging that the tight-knit alliance of the Cold War years is gone for good. Instead, they should accept that the character of the Atlantic order is undergoing a profound transformation, seek to understand the attributes of the emerging order, and figure out how to make the most of its cooperative potential.
• DW World: James Bond's Latest German Villain: "Out of 21 Bond movies, about 10 of the scoundrels have been played by German or Austrian actors. Others have not been played by Germans but have implied German evil nonetheless."
• In the 2006 World Press Photo competition, Todd Heisler of the Rocky Mountain News won first place for "People In The News: Stories" with his essay "Final Salute," about a group of Marines who deal with the families of Colorado Marines killed in action. The work also won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography, writes BAGnewsNotes and comments on one of the pictures:
Katherine Cathey, pregnant with their unborn son, rubs her belly against the coffin. Of all the photographs in the group, this is the most searing; it's as impossible to forget as it is to imagine. Of all the memories, the sense of touch seems to be the first to fade, and here is the sense of a last touch. It cuts deeply as love, birth and death merge until our heads spin.
The 19 pages long feature is available in the Rocky Mountain News (pdf, 10 MB). Related: National Geographic has a feature about "Iraq War Medicine" with photos by acclaimed war photographer James Nachtwey.
• "Truthiness" best sums up 2006, according to an online survey by dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, reports CNN. "Truthiness" was credited to Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert, who defined it as "truth that comes from the gut, not books." More in the Atlantic Review post about Bullshit and Truthiness. The American Dialect Society already voted "Truthiness" as word of the year 2005. The German word of the year has not been announced yet. Last year it was "Bundeskanzlerin," i.e. the female version of "federal chancellor." Endnote: Some will see a connection between Truthiness and the Iraq war. To be clear: Liberals are just as guilty of practicing truthiness as conservatives.
Watching America describes itself as "America's Public Intelligence Agency" and translates what international publications write about the US politics. Translating articles in their entirety is a good service, because context is often important.
• "Fear is a Dangerous Counselor":Watching America translation of a Die Welt article about the The Iraq Study Group Report: "If Washington now gives the impression that it's trying to sneak out of a situation that it created, then the prospect of an Iraqi-style Dayton agreement will be nil.”
• "Our New Friends of ... the 'Axis of Evil'":Watching America translation of a Financial Times Deutschland article: "Hopes for pacifying Iraq with the cooperation of Iran and Syria are hardly promising."
• "The U.S. Dollar: 'A Horror Story'":Watching America translation of a Financial Times Deutschland article: "The deterioration of the U.S. currency is part of a tectonic realignment that we will have to confront for years to come."