Saturday, March 08, 2003

[L]IKE-MINDED PACIFISTS: There's an editorial in the Süddeutsche Zeitung today: "The Missionary Bush is Misusing the Faith -- Simple Solutions: The US President and His Fundamentalist State Christianity."

The frame of the article is weeklong visit by a delegation from the Evangelical Churches in Germany (EKD). According to the article, the delegation didn't just meet with "like-minded pacifist splinter groups" in the US, but with the National Council of Churches (NCC). Ok.

The author of the editorial is quite impressed that the EKD could go a whole week, meeting with other such religious groups, without coming across any military hawks. Hmm.

He believes that it shows "how deeply divided the American people are, between those against war and those for it." Right. He goes on:

And it also shows: No matter how much George Bush tries to present his mission as a godly task, or how religiously he colors his vocabulary, no matter how deep his personal piety might be -- he is standing way on the edge of American Christianity.
As they say, don't read the whole thing...

Friday, March 07, 2003

[B]LOGGING FISCHER: Joschka Fischer is now giving his speech to the UN. Key quotes: "only the disarmament of Iraq" -- "we fight together" -- "we stand united" -- "joint approach to attain our common goal" -- "Iraq's cooperation ... does not yet fully meet UN demands" -- "in recent days, cooperation has nevertheless improved."

This is the standard diplomatic formulation: Oh, look, Hussein is now really starting to participate. Let's give him a last chance...

And now he's saying we should wait for Blix to present yet another report that details yet again all of the known infractions against previous resolutions. He goes on:

"Inspections based on 1441 are now showing progress."

"... endless suffering to innumerable people ..."

"... international terrorism would be strengthened not hindered ..."

"... the progress of the last few days have shown ..."

I bet he was disappointed not to get a round of applause.

UPDATE: The full text of Fischer's remarks are available via the Website of NYT.

[M]OVIE REVIEW: The New York Times has favorably reviewed the German movie, "Nirgendwo in Afrika." The movie opens in New York today -- I believe it will run with English subtitles. It has been nominated for an Oscar as best foreign language movie.
[U]SA TODAY, EUROPE LATER: Via German blogger (in English) Tobias Schwarz, I came across this article from USA Today. Tobias deconstructs the rather silly bullet-point list offered as advice to Amis in the piece. (I mean, it's good advice, but advice you'd give to any tourist traveling in any country at any time -- except for the advice to stay away from McDonalds, which is just dumb.)

But some of the anecdotes in the article are a bit harsh, suggesting at least a slight increase in everyday anti-Americanism on the street.

For the record: Many of us Amis who have lived here for awhile experience very little of such sentiment. The actual pervasiveness of anecdotal evidence and stories of "peaceful American tourists tortured to death by mad and naked European pacifists" is always difficult to evaluate.

If you are planning a trip to Europe, just remember the author's advice to not discuss politics in "rowdy bars," and you should be alright.

UPDATE: John over at Iberian Notes offers good advice on how to get along in Spain: "It's a good idea not to talk about politics or about the United States in general with Spaniards unless you're ready for an argument; don't bring up either subject yourself, ever." But if you do get attacked, just say something nice about Barcelona.

John also links to this piece in The Onion. Like I've done in other places at Amiland, The Onion reminds us that many Americans have European heritage: "Their ancestors came from France, from Germany, from Italy -- places where they have naked breasts on the cover of mainstream magazines."

[G]ERMANS DON'T UNDERSTAND TAGESSCHAU: According to, "Many [German] television viewers can't get anything out of the nightly news anymore because they don't understand the buzzwords." (Thanks to Godmar.)

[The 8 p.m. broadcast of "Tagesschau" is the most watched news program in Germany, with 11.1 million daily viewers.]

Now, we've all seen the Jay Leno bit where he asks recent college graduates (usually at their graduation) a simple question, and they whiff on it. Germans really get a kick out of that stuff over here. And sometimes it is funny (or sad).

Anyway, a new poll by GEWIS-Institut concludes that 88 percent of Germans "don't understand the daily contents of the news."

The research institute asked 1061 men and women if they could describe the meaning of a series of "buzzwords" that are often used in news broadcasts.

One of the terms was "scud missile."

Of the peace loving Germans, 75 percent flat out said that they didn't know what a "scud missile" was. From the rest, 13 percent explained it incorrectly.

That led me to think... Some of the most recent polls in Germany still indicate that about 85 percent of Germans are against war with Iraq.

Which means about 10 to 15 percent of the population is "for" confronting Iraq with military means -- and 12 percent know what a scud missile is. Coincidence?

Thursday, March 06, 2003

[M]ILLIONS OF DEATHS: Today's top Iraq story at (and the Website's main story nearly all day) is an interview with the German spokesperson for International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNC).

She says: "We're afraid that there will be mass deaths in the months after the war, and millions of people will die."

And based on the reports that US and British forces plan to drop 3,000 bombs in the first 48 hours of an attack, the IPPNC fears 250,000 deaths "at the beginning of the war alone."

Previously, the largest number I'd seen published was a report from the UN, where up to 500,000 people "could suffer injuries and require medical treatment," as reported in the IHT.

As a review, the exact number of Iraqi casualties from the Gulf War in 1991 is in dispute, but it ranges between 50,000 and 150,000. The first "official" report -- which was later rewritten -- estimated 158,000 Iraqi deaths.


The "Tagesschau" is perhaps Germany's most respected daily news program on state-sponsored television. Even Gerhard Schröder has appeared in newspaper advertisements for the show: He's in his office, half-sitting on the front of his desk at the end of hard day, watching the nightly news.

Now we know what he's watching...

[O]PPOSITION POLITICS: A commentary at BusinessWeek Online gave Angela Merkel some good press yesterday. Such an article is primarily the fruit of her recent trip to the US, where she seems to have successfully raised her profile.

She now has to be seen at home as working with the Chancellor to get Germany back to work -- but at the same time, too positive an improvement in the economy would devastate her party's chances in the next federal elections, in 2006.

It's an interesting time to be the opposition leader in Germany...

UPDATE: And it keeps getting more and more interesting, as German unemployment increased again this month, to 11.3 percent. The number that strikes me, though, is the 9 percent in western Germany that are jobless.

[C]NBC IN GERMANY: The American television channel, CNBC, is offering a day of Germany-focused programming. The theme: "Was the day the wall came down a new beginning -- or the beginning of the end?"

The topic at 5 p.m. EST (23:00 in Germany) is, "The cost of Germany's growing anti-U.S. sentiment."

I'm not sure if my hotel room for tonight gets CNBC, but I'll see what I see...

The Pinakothek der Moderne

by Emily Berns Heyser
emily DOT heyser AT gmx DOT net

Munich may be a handsome, modern city, but it never has had an exceptional work of modern architecture or a first-rate modern-art museum. Not surprisingly, then, last fall's opening of the city's new Pinakothek der Moderne, across Barer Strasse from the Alten and Neuen Pinokotheken, was the major cultural event of the year. From the beginning the crowds were large, and critics and ordinary visitors were laudatory, both about the building's architecture and about the collection. Put off by the long lines, I waited till last week to see for myself what all the fuss was about. A friend and I went on Sunday, when entrance (normally 9 euros for adults) is free.

The museum is built around a large, naturally lit central rotunda with a two-level mezzanine that vaguely reminded this former New Yorker of the spiral ramps in Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum. But there the resemblance ends. Unlike the intimately scaled Guggenheim, Stefan Braunfels's Pinakothek is a vast, high-ceilinged building with four levels of exhibition rooms branching off from the rotunda. Its collection ranges from the early twentieth century to the present, and includes classics of painting, sculpture, graphics, design and multimedia and video art. It has rooms for permanent and temporary installations, a café, museum shop and auditorium. Most impressive, however: the building's sense of space and light - both natural and artificial - makes the most of the works shown. Unlike Wright's building, Braunfels's is a magnificent place to display and view works of art.

In the sections of the museum devoted to large pieces, the curators have contributed to the feeling of light and airiness by giving the artworks plenty of space around them. Lit by natural light and surrounded by large areas of white, John Chamberlain's sculptures made from smashed-up cars look not only vibrant and dynamic but almost beautiful. The wide, light-filled left-hand staircase leading from the rotunda to the first floor is a perfect showcase for the giant ceiling-to-floor Plexiglass noodles of Olaf Metzel's colorful "Reise nach Jerusalem" (2002). In a room showing cathedral-like light sculptures by Dan Flavin, each piece is given its own wall.

A large Max Beckmann room contains an impressive group of paintings including a giant triptych, several self-portraits and an unusual snow landscape from 1934. Other famous international artists like Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys and Donald Judd are well represented too, and there is a good painting by Jasper Johns. Yet I was also happy to make the acquaintance of artists whose work I didn't know, like the Argentine-born Lucio Fontana, who makes sculptures and sculpturelike pictures. The museum's artificial overhead lighting brought out wonderful reflections in his cut and scratched copper relief "Concetto spaziale New York."

In the rooms displaying smaller, more intimate artworks, the curators have hung them closer together. Gems are to be found everywhere, scattered among mediocre works. In a room with a beautiful still-life of sunflowers by Emil Nolde, there are two wonderful self-portraits, one by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and the other by Otto Mueller. There are strong paintings by European artists previously unknown to me, such as Carl Lohse, whose "Vorlesen" is a powerfully claustrophobic image of a woman surrounded by looming, listening men.

Downstairs, at the bottom of a wide staircase descending from the rotunda, a huge backlit wall showcases masterpieces of twentieth-century home design. Dangling menacingly above those stairs, with the wall as a dramatic backdrop, a large black sculpture reminded me of a hammerhead shark and my friend of an oversized anchor.

The museum is too big, too packed with variety and quality to be taken in during one visit. My friend and I left after about four hours, determined to return soon.

Museum Website:

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

[B]OYCOTT UPDATE: I caught this via the AP wire:
A small eastern German company on Wednesday became the first to announce the loss of U.S. business over Berlin's refusal to back the Bush administration's moves to disarm Iraq militarily.
Apparently, a firm in Maine has stopped doing $50,000 annually in business with the German company, which employs 42 people. In a letter to Chancellor Schröder, the CEO of the affected company wrote:
We ask the German government to modify its anti-war stance in the case of Iraq for the protection of German industry.
According to the AP, the CEO "appealed to the chancellor to change his position, accusing him of sacrificing the German-American friendship 'on the altar of short-term political success.'" This was German company's largest American customer.
[E]VIL AMIS, GOOD AMIS: That's the title of an interesting article in the Tagesspiegel today. The article is a sobering look -- from a German perspective -- at the issue of possibly relocating US troops and bases outside of Germany. It starts:
They [the Amis] were nice occupiers -- and lucrative [for Germany] as well. Whole regions of West Germany lived from the economic influence of the US Army. At one time, 300,000 GIs were stationed here. Now it's still a good 70,000. The minister presidents and mayors surely don't want to lose them as well.
According to the article, in 2001 alone, two of the bases in Germany resulted in 1.4 billion euros of civil contracts, accounting for 27,000 jobs in a country with 11-plus percent (and growing) unemployment. In all of Germany, another 15,000 Germans have jobs that are directly tied to the American military presence here.

The author writes:

If the citizens [in the towns around US Army bases] demonstrate, then [they should demonstrate] not necessarily against, but for the US Army. And against the SPD [Schröder's party].
The article is a good overview of the current situation. The author highlights that the plans to reorganize and relocate US forces in Europe are older than the USA-Germany disagreement over Iraq. But still he asks:
So does Iraq have absolutely nothing to do with these plans? Indeed it does. If it weren't for the disgruntled mood [between the USA and Germany], SPD Minister President Beck [from Rheinland Pfalz] would have sounded the alarm long ago. And he would have begged the Chancellor to speak with Bush about how to manage the aftereffects. As it is, the SPD has to endure the damage with clenched teeth.
I've also received a few emails from Americans in Germany -- primarily military or ex-military -- that have touched on these themes. Here's part of an email from QMP:
I work for the US military in Rheinland Pfalz. If the US military were to pull out of this area the already teetering economy would be crushed. The US employs thousands of Germans and fills the apartments of over 50,000 German landlords here. In the last five to seven years the average German here has built a home to rent to Americans.
Were the US to leave, the housing market would collapse, landlords would default on their loans, and banks would fold. Those few Germans who own the home they rent to Americans would then suffer a loss of income (much of it retirement income) and their standard of living would be reduced. If that weren't bad enough, the 200 to 400 million dollars worth of contracted supplies and service the US military orders from German firms would also disappear.
Add it all up and you might as well try selling Rheinland Pfalz to the French. If I were a German landlord, I would be out protesting for the Americans to stay.
I wonder if the French, considering their newfound clout in the center of old Europe, are interested in buying...
[N]ATIONAL RELIGION: The New York Times has picked up on Germany's new law requiring a 25 or 50 eurocent deposit on all cans and bottles. The law appears to be drying up even the sales of beer.
"We're missing 20 percent of the beer drinkers," said Udo Frank, a spokesman for Holsten-Brauerei, Germany's largest beer maker with about 8 percent of the market.
According to the article, some makers of cans and bottles are experiencing as much as a 60 percent drop in sales.

And it's all a bit confusing, as every retailer and corner shop has their own process for returning used containers. I liked this bit from the article:

For Germany, where recycling is practically a national religion, government regulation is plentiful and planning is prized, the tumult has come as something of a shock.
Personally, I've only collected a small bag of bottles and cans that I need to return for my deposit -- maybe about three or four euros worth. Now if only I could remember where I bought each of them...
[C]ALL FOR POSTS: Since its launch, the mission of Amiland has been to take a look at how Germany looks at the USA -- and how Amiland looks back. For the most part, I try to cover the day-to-day goings on, focusing on German and American newspapers and magazines.

Another source of how we look at each other happens at a deeper level, culturally.

I'd like to invite Amiland readers to submit posts that take a look at books or movies or events, such as art exhibitions or plays. The theme is open to anything that might be interesting for an Amiland reader. (I'm sure Mrs T. wants dibs to review Scholl-Latour's new book.)

Other possibilities include novels by Frederick Busch, art treasures in Dresden, or a review of German movies: "Good Bye Lenin" or "Nirgendwo in Afrika."

Primarily, though, I think it'd be interesting to post non-fiction book reviews from Amiland readers. There are always new books touching on issues important to Americans and Germans, as well as American-German relations -- not to mention all of those on the bestseller lists from Spiegel and Focus.

If you're interested, drop me a line and we can discuss a topic that might be interesting for you and for all of Amiland's readers.

The first guest post -- from an Ami living in Munich -- is coming up tomorrow...

[N]ARREN CAN'T BE NASTY: In a Karneval float from this weekend, the opposition leader Angela Merkel was portrayed as an Uncle Sam Cannonball shooting out of ... well, shooting out of Uncle Sam. Funny, I thought.

And while I agree with Glenn Reynolds that Schröder and his supporters are probably feeling desperate -- in the SZ today, the lead editorial says the Chancellor is hoping for a "miracle" -- this float demonstrates neither that desperation nor any type of nastiness from his supporters.

At Karneval parades in Germany, every politician takes a roasting.

Chancellor Schröder, for example, was himself portrayed over the weekend as a worthless leader who can't point his country in a single direction; as a womanizer who raises petty lawsuits; as a waiter serving a "salad" of all kinds of tax hikes; and as a pirate that steals his people's money.

Granted, none of these floats were quite as "colorful" as the portrayal of the opposition leader.

At the moment, though, it is much worse -- nasty even -- to be portrayed as Schröder was: a provincial, rudderless Chancellor, whose only propositions so far have been mainly about increased taxes.

UPDATE: Amiland is looking for contributors... Scroll to the next post above to find out more.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

[W]HAT ARE THEY PROTESTING: I've posted before that German demonstrators have been showing up lately at the US Air Force Base Rhein-Main near Frankfurt -- they did this in 1991 too.

But RG, an Amiland reader in the know, writes in with the rest of the story:

I keep seeing emphasis on the American base at Frankfurt, when in fact, most of the base has been shut down. The Rhein-Main AFB is a shadow of its former self. Ramstein, on the other hand, is the major US airport in Germany today. But since it (Rhein-Main) is close to a major metro area (Frankfurt), it gets the protesters.
I would guess the largest group still at Rhein-Main is the arms control folks, doing routine inspections of the former Soviet Union (Defense Threat Reduction Agency) -- so the protesters are obviously against fewer nuclear weapons?
And to think that they've wasted two beautiful weekends in Germany out there...
[G]ERMAN ABDICATION: While I do agree with Andrew Sullivan's thesis in general that "very little of the opposition to this war is actually about this war," I'm not sure about this bit in the same post from today:
For the Germans, it's about a new national identity. The Germans have never been able to sustain a moderate polity on their own. They veer from extreme romantic militarism to romantic pacifism. Their current abdication of all strategic responsibility for Europe or the wider world is just another all-too-familiar spasm from German history.
Yes, Germany was the first to stand publicly against any use of force to disarm Hussein. Schröder's irresponsible and problematic no at a campaign rally gave hope to the Iraqi dictator that he just might divide the West and escape with his weapons of mass destruction. And Schröder continues to stand by this "electoral promise."

But to characterize Germany's current position as an "abdication of all strategic responsibility for Europe or the wider world" is simply not accurate.

We shouldn't forget that two years ago Gerhard Schröder put his own government on the line to support Enduring Freedom. Basically, he said, You're either with me or against me. He forced the members of his governing coalition, including the Greens, to vote either for his government policy (and support of America) or against participation in Enduring Freedom. A failed vote would have led to new elections. It was a bold move that demonstrated solidarity with the United States.

We also shouldn't forget that just recently Schröder agreed to increase the presence of German troops in Kuwait by about 50%. The deployed personnel represent some of the world's best at detecting and decontaminating agents from chemical and biological weapons. No small contribution on the border to Iraq.

Germany has also overtaken the leading role in Afghanistan, while the Bundeswehr stands guard outside US bases here in Germany.

Schröder has put himself at odds with the US on Iraq, and he may yet pay for it -- especially if forced to the Bundestag for permission on NATO support.

With regard to Iraq, Germany ain't done good, but let's keep the cathedral in Cologne here...

[I]T'S ALL ABOUT OIL: Gas prices in Germany reached all-time highs in the month of February. According to the Petroleum Economic Association [Mineralöwirtschaftsverband] the average price for a liter of premium gas was 1.14 euros. Regular unleaded was two eurocents cheaper. (German-language report here.)

Let me do the math... One US gallon is 3.785 liters. At 1.14 euros per liter, the cost for a gallon of gas in February was 4.32 euros. Based on today's exchange rate, that comes in at $4.72 per gallon. Ouch.

Of that, more than 70% went to the state as taxes. Double ouch.

[F]RANKFURT BLEIBT AM MAIN: An interesting study was just released from Mercer Human Resources Consulting (press release). It ranks the world -- you might be surprised (if you're an Ami), but old Europe and Germany didn't do so badly...

Zurich topped the list in "overall quality of life," with Geneva, Vancouver (is that in Europe?) and Vienna tying for second. In fifth place, we find our first German cities, Frankfurt and Munich, in a multi-city tie.

Now, I've only been there for business, but Frankfurt?!

The top American city is San Francisco, which comes in at 20th place. Baghdad, with or without human shields, ranked 213 out of 215 cities in the report.

Monday, March 03, 2003

MARRIAGE OF EQUALS: In what appears to be a match made in heaven, the website of the New York Times is now picking up occasional English-language versions of articles from Der Spiegel magazine.

The latest installment includes the cover story for this week's edition: America's Shadow Warriors.

Comments on the piece are, as always, welcome...

PUNDITSCHAU LIVES: Regular Amiland readers will recall that I nicked the idea of Punditwatch in order to offer the German version: Punditschau. I only got so far as to focus on the Sunday night special, Sabine Christiansen, and even that much I haven't done for a couple weeks now.

Somehow, the "orgy of frowning earnestness" didn't seem worth the time -- probably because I don't have the British humo(u)r to truly appreciate it. But Mrs T. over at T6I (whence the quote above comes) does.

Mrs. T. writes on one of the guests last night:

Hats off to Peter Scholl-Latour. It's no great achievement for a veteran journalist to become a fatuous self-regarding windbag. But it takes a special man altogether to make Vanessa Redgrave seem the voice of reason by comparison.
Go check out the rest.


Another, amazingly mind-boggling, achievement of Scholl-Latour includes the two books -- one of which is called Battle against Terror, Battle against Islam? -- that he currently has on non-fiction bestseller lists here in Germany.

Even Michael Moore can only claim one book on the list...

ON COURAGE AND BIAS: Here's a bit in the Süddeutsche Zeitung today, reporting on the meeting of the Arab League this weekend:
All the same, the Syrian President Bashar Assad had the courage to highlight the schizophrenia of the Arab position: Those, like Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, who make their territory available as a deployment area to America and Britain, support the aggression against Iraq and therefore should not speak about a peaceful solution.
But I wonder how the author really feels...

Here's how Sunday's Washington Post characterized the words of the Syrian President:

In the opening session, Syrian President Bashar Assad accused the United States of seeking to serve Israel's interests, dominate the region and redraw the map of the Middle East.
Courageous words, indeed.


The beginning of the article also describes the suspension of Egypt from the Arab League -- in 1979 after signing the Camp David Peace Accords with Israel -- as a courageous action. According to the article, it showed Arab resolve to punish a country that "acted against the will of the majority."

In some circles, one might describe such a policy as, "You're either with us or against us." Here, "regardless of whether the decision was politically clever," it appears to have been courageous.

On the whole, the article is calling for courage from the Arab League to act on Iraq -- which of course would be a good thing. But it's calling for a "similar courage" to that needed in 1979 to act on Egypt.

Hmm... At best, it's just a really questionable comparison.

OPPOSITION TO FREEDOM: Interestingly, in her interview with Der Spiegel, Susan Sontag also says: "The invasion that we are rejecting would be welcomed by the majority of Iraqis. We shouldn't forget that. And that doesn't make our opposition easier."

So let me get this straight. The Iraqi people -- the Iraqi "We" -- do want the Bush junta to un-democratically overthrow their current regime. But the "We" of Susan Sontag doesn't want this because... That would've been a good follow-up question as well.

To be fair, Sontag does give one reason, which essentially comes down to the argument that war will only make the situation worse and lead to more terrorism. Fair enough.

She's also worried that the secular Hussein might be replaced by a fundamentalist regime. You never know, but I don't think she was referring to the United States here...

WE, THE BUSH JUNTA, WANT OCCUPATION: Most people know where Susan Sontag is coming from, so in some ways it's just more of the same from her interview this week in Der Spiegel (see post below). But that doesn't make her comments any less "noteworthy."

Here are just a few pulls from her answers:

But pay attention to the rhetoric of this administration. The "We" that Bush and the others use is the royal "We" -- not the "We" of the Constitution, not "We, the people." If George W. Bush and his advisors were confronted with proof that a majority of Americans reject the war, their answer would be: "It is our task to lead." Their foreign policy has been removed from the democratic process. They have mistakenly written a dangerous policy.
I think that September 11th was the gateway. The Bush administration immediately understood that everything would now be possible: a new foreign policy in which military expansion could be condoned by self-defense.
Europe is secular, whereas the overwhelming majority of people in this land [USA] believe in God. The USA is in many respects an anarchical country. That's the reason why Bush's polarizing language is so successful here [in the USA].
She of course also refers to the administration as "the Bush junta" and later argues that the "White House is drawing towards war because they want to occupy Iraq." A good follow-up question might have been, "Why?"

Perhaps there are some Sontag experts out there who can find more compelling conclusions that I can...

SPIEGELVIEW: German newspapers and magazines use the Q&A format of interviews much more frequently than their American counterparts. Generally, I think it's a valuable device, giving voice to the person being interviewed in a way not possible in a news story or reportage.

When reading an interview in Der Spiegel, though, a large part of the "story" actually comes from the questions themselves. And when the person being interviewed is Susan Sontag -- as in this week's issue -- it's all the more interesting.

Here, just for fun, are some of the questions posed by the interviewer:

Frau Sontag, President Bush is apparently wildly determined to start a war against Saddam Hussein. Do you still have any confidence that it won't go so far?
There is dogged resistance to this war in Europe. Even the position of Americans is increasingly mixed, if one believes opinion polls. [In case you're wondering, this wasn't a question.]
Do you believe that Bush is using the attacks from September 11th as an excuse [to do] what he had always intended -- namely, invade Iraq?
The lack of willingness to give up sovereignty is also behind US unilaterialism -- for example, resistance to the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court? [I'm assuming that the interviewer indicated this was a question, as opposed to a statement, by tone of voice.]
The ghost of illegitimate war has followed America since Vietnam. How is it that this nightmare no longer has any effect?
With questions like these, who needs answers...
ONE MAN'S PLANTATION IS ANOTHER MAN'S COURT: Last week, I commented on the epithet used by the Süddeutsche Zeitung to describe George Washington: President and slave owner. The post received some interesting feedback...

Here again is what the SZ wrote:

Just outside the town of Potomac, a good 20 kilometers northwest of Washington, you reach the so-called mansions with a living area of more than 10,000 square feet -- about the size 200 years ago that was enough for the entire plantation of President and slave owner George Washington.
Thanks to Amiland reader Joshua for fact checking the SZ (and me) with regard to the size of Washington's plantation, which was of course larger than 1,000 square meters. Joshua writes:
1,000 square meters is about a quarter of an acre. In fact, Washington's plantation at Mount Vernon consisted of about 8.09 million square meters (2,000 acres) when he inherited it, and he eventually acquired additional land to expand it to almost 32.4 million square meters (8,000 acres).
Part of the confusion here arises from my translation of Hofstaat in the original German as "plantation." This isn't entirely accurate.

A Hofstaat isn't found in slave-day America, but in European royalty. It is the king's court, the "place of residence of a sovereign or dignity," and it is comprised of "the retinue of a sovereign, including the royal family and personal servants, advisers, and ministers" (

Thus, the Hofstaat here was not Washington's plantation, so to say, but his residence and his slaves, among others. Here's (I hope) a better translation of the sentence from SZ:

Just outside the town of Potomac, a good 20 kilometers northwest of Washington, you reach the so-called mansions with a living area of more than 1,000 square meters -- about the size, a good 200 years ago, that was still [big] enough for the whole court of President and slave owner George Washington.
Of course, this doesn't change the ridiculousness of the epithet. But what of the 1,000 square meters?

It is accurate that Washington's "McMansion" at Mount Vernon was about 1,000 square meters. This, to be honest, was the extent of my initial fact checking.

But Joshua is still right, because all of Washington's "court" -- particularly the slaves -- surely didn't live in the McMansion, but instead slept in small and overcrowded quarters, somewhere out on the plantation.


Sorry to those who found this diversion a bit too diverting, but I did learn another thing while on this aimless walk. I'm told by a German-speaking Amiland reader that Hofstaat here is definitely a poke -- if not another derogatory one -- at what SZ might call the nation's First Slave Owner.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

SADDAM ALAAF: The Weekend section of Saturday's Süddeutsche Zeitung takes a look at Saddam Hussein and George Bush in the time of Karneval.

I'm not sure what the point of the article is, but I did find this AP picture taken at Karnevel celebrations in Düsseldorf...
ALAAF: When in Germany, do as the Germans Brazilians... It's Karneval!