Posts tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

German Press Review: Kim’s Sugarcubes, and the “Battle of Opinion”

The actions of the North Korean regime are not incalculable, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s (Munich) Reymer Klüver, the paper’s U.S. correspondent until summer last year, and now with the foreign-politics department at Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Kim clan’s provocations were actually quite calculable in its provocations which served only one goal: to show the world and its own people its power. The regime in North Korea doesn’t act incalculably. It acts irresponsibly.

The message is aimed at the Obama administration, believes Klüver, as the test was conducted on the day when the American president delivered the agenda for his second term in office, and at South Korean president-elect Park Geun Hye is about to take office. The reactions, too, were calculable: the US would demand stronger sanctions, China would agree after some hesitation, and basically, the response wouldn’t be different from the one to the previous nuclear test. Even if a bomb of the same explosive power as the previous one was indeed smaller than before, and therefore more suitable to be fitted to a nuclear missile, North Korea remained far from being a threat to America.

What makes the test dangerous all the same would be that Kim might gamble away, and that his provocations could spin out of control. A conflict on the South Korean border could lead to just that kind of scenario. Even worse, non-proliferation might be used to earn some badly needed foreign exchange. There was speculation about North Korean cooperation with Iran on its third test. What would keep a gambler like the dictator in Pyongyang to sell Iran or others his knowledge and even material?

China could influence North Korea, if it wanted to, writes Klüver, but it didn’t want to use it. 90 percent of North Korea’s oil imports depended on China. But China’s calculations could be shifting, Klüver adds: a Peking government paper had mentioned a “high price” that North Korea would have to pay in case of a nuclear test. The Chinese, Klüver recaps, needed to take responsibility for their irresponsible neighbor.

Der Spiegel (Hamburg) chooses the tabloid approach, as far as its choice  of stock photo material is concerned. Underneath a video link photo (from Reuters) that shows Kim Jong-un in flames, the headline is North Korean nuclear power messes with America (Atommacht Nordkorea legt sich mit Amerika an). Der Spiegel’s Andreas Lorenz points out that this could start an arms race, with the US, Japan and North Korea beefing up their missile defense. Xi Jinping acted hardly differently from his predecessor Hu Jintao, Lorenz notes, as he criticizes Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests, but also trying to soften international sanctions. North Korea is an important supplier of commodities to China. And the encapsulated country serves China’s military as a strategic buffer zone between China and the other East Asian states and the US.

Lorenz also quotes the English-language party mouthpiece “Global Times” as suggesting that there was no need for China to placate angry feelings about its role. And Lorenz quotes US expert Siegfried Hecker with concerns that North Korea could sell its atomic-bomb know-how, to Iran, for example.

Die Welt (Berlin) suggests that Kim had thrown the Chinese sugar cubes (i. e. sweetened the third test).

Namely, the third test was preceded by several sessions of North Korean security panels on which Kim ostensibly emphasized the leadership role of his Communist Party. For the first time in the regime’s history, these sessions were made public, writes die Welt’s Torsten Krauel. Kim thus signaled that the third test was controled by the civilian leadership and not, as it had been previously, as an – intransparent to the outside world – decision between an ailing dictator and an incalculable army. (Dem dritten Test gingen nämlich mehrere Sitzungen nordkoreanischer Sicherheitsgremien voraus, auf denen Kim demonstrativ die Führungsrolle seiner Kommunistischen Partei hervorhob. Diese Sitzungen wurden erstmals in der Geschichte des Regimes publik gemacht. Kim Jong-un signalisierte damit, dass der dritte Atomtest unter der Steuerung und Kontrolle der zivilen Führung stattfand und nicht, wie beide Male zuvor, in einer nach außen unklaren Entscheidung zwischen einem kränklichen Diktator und einer unberechenbaren Armee.)

Therefore, Xi Jinping and (theoretically) Barack Obama, too, now had a a definite contact person, believes Krauel.

Alleged North-Korean cooperation with Iran has long been a leitmotif in Die Welt’s coverage, but while more moderate papers like Süddeutsche Zeitung are discussing these allegations too, this week, Die Welt goes one step further and discusses how America could conduct a war on North Korea. However, Krauel concludes that different from Iraq during the years after the Kuwait war, the United Nations weren’t in a state of war with North Korea.

Therefore, it seems to be inevitable to talk with each other in East Asia again, even with a dictator like Kim Jong-un – as unpromising and depressing this prospect may currently look. (Wahrscheinlich führt deshalb tatsächlich kein Weg daran vorbei, in Ostasien wieder miteinander zu reden, sogar mit einem Diktator wie Kim Jong-un – so aussichtslos und bedrückend diese Aussicht derzeit auch erscheinen mag.)

The German mainstream press in general has become much more supportive of militarization of politics than in the past. That is my rough observation, and not backed by statistics. But apparently for the first time, research has been published about how leading German press people – mentioned by name – are interlinked with think tanks, national and international forums, foundations, policy planning groups, etc.. And a presentation of this research also clearly quotes leading press commentators with statements like

Politics must not shun the battle of opinion on the home front if they are convinced of what they purport. [...] The battle for the “hearts and minds” must be conducted among at home, too. (Der Meinungskampf an der Heimatfront darf die Politik nicht scheuen, wenn sie von dem überzeugt ist, was sie vorgibt. [...] Der Kampf um die “hearts and minds” muss auch bei uns geführt werden.)

A newsman’s words, to be clear.

This should not lead to overreaching conclusions. The research does not suggest that everyone is in the boat of an extended security concept (erweiterter Sicherheitsbegriff, including energy and financial-industry issues). But among four leading journalists of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit and Die Welt, definitions of security and threat catalogs had been uncritically adopted (unkritisch übernommen).

There are papers with editorial managers not known for relevant networks – the left leaning Tageszeitung (taz) and Frankfurter Rundschau (FR). Some of their articles correspond with views among the elite, some sharply criticize the extended security concept, according to the report.

Here is another observation that disturbs me: My choice of press-review sources – Süddeutsche Zeitung, Spiegel, Die Welt further above in this blogpost was spontaneous. My information sources of choice when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear test were just these papers. No taz, no Frankfurter Rundschau. However, there’s an excuse:

I thought the Rundschau was no longer online, as they filed for bankruptcy on November 12, 2012.

But in fact, they are still here.

____________

Related

» Questions Raised, November 10, 2012

____________

Friday, October 19, 2012

CRI on Kabul University’s Chinese Faculty: Great Opportunities

The following is a translation of a China Radio International (CRI) article published online on October 12.

These students who are reading Chinese aloud, along with their teacher, are twenty Afghan students who are currently studying in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, at Taiyuan University of Technology’s international exchange institute. Why are so many Afghan students there in Taiyuan, you may ask. Taiyuan University of Technology international exchange institute deputy Dean of Faculty, Professor Zhao Enyuan, explains: “When Afghan president Karzai visited China in 2008, the two sides signed a cultural assistance agreement which included some important content about China helping Kabul University to establish a Confucius Institute, and to build, on that foundation, Kabul University’s Chinese faculty. The Confucius Institute assigned Taiyuan University to do this work. To this end, we started running school at Kabul University in 2008, and these students enrolled in March 2010, and came [to China] in September 2011. You can say that they are third-formers, now in their sixth semester.”

跟着老师朗读汉语的同学是来自阿富汗的20位留学生,他们现就读于中国山西省太原理工大学国际交流学院。您也许会问,这么多阿富汗留学 生为何集中在太原学习中文呢?太原理工大学国际交流学院副院长赵恩源教授介绍说:“2008年阿富汗卡尔扎伊总统访问中国的时候,双方签署了一个文化援助 协议,其中一项重要内容就是中国帮助喀布尔大学建设孔子学院,并在此基础上建设喀布尔大学汉语系。太原理工大学受孔子学院总部的指派承担了这项工作。为 此,我们08年就在阿富汗喀布尔大学开始办学了,这批学生是2010年3月份入学的,2011年9月份过来的,他们算是三年级了,正在进行第六学期的学 习。”

Currently, as the security situation in Afghanistan remains grim, equipment at the university is backward, funding is sparse, and one can imagine that under these circumstances, setting up the first Chinese faculty in Afghanistan’s history  here is difficult. But all along, the enthusiasm among young Afghans to learn Chinese is high. Young Afghan Hu Shan, explaining his reasons to learn Chinese, says: “I have been here in China for a year now. I really love learning Chinese. When I had passed the university entry exam, I chose learning Chinese. I first learned at Kabul University for a year and a half, and through my efforts, I now have the opportunity to study in China. Because our country and China have always maintained friendly relations, I also like Chinese culture, and I am interested in the lives of the Chinese people.”

目前,由于阿富汗国内安全局势依然严峻,大学教学设备落后、资金短缺,在这种情况下开设阿富汗历史上第一个汉语专业的难度可想而知。不 过阿富汗青年学习汉语的热情却始终很高。阿富汗青年胡山在谈到学习汉语的原因时说:“我来中国已经一年了。我很爱学习汉语。考大学以后选择了学汉语。我在 喀布尔大学先学了一年半,通过努力能有这个机会来中国。因为我们的国家和中国一直都保持友好关系,我也很喜欢中国文化,对中国人的生活我也很感兴趣。”

Deputy Dean of Faculty, Professor Zhao Enyuan, explains that when they started recruiting students in Afghanistan, young Afghans who wanted to enroll or asked for information came in an endless stream, their enthusiasm for learning Chinese was unusually high, and surprised the recruiting teachers. Good employment prospects probably also support the interest to learn Chinese. Zhao Enyuan says: “some of our students were asked to do translation work while having just started learning. There were two fourth-formers who did this kind of work. Locals had come straight to the Chinese faculty, and I recommended two students. In one day, they earned 200 US dollars, and they worked for 15 days. They had lessons in the morning, and after lessons, they just ran (off to their work). Locals, once they have business with China, are in need of their translation work. Working for tens of days, these two students earned 2,000 or 3,000 US dollars. One can say that provided that you learn Chinese well, such opportunities are ample there.

赵恩源副院长介绍说,当初在阿富汗招生的时候,前来报名和咨询的阿富汗青年络绎不绝,他们学习汉语的热情异常高涨,让从事招生工作的老 师都感到很吃惊。良好的就业前景应该也是让学汉语在阿富汗受追捧的重要原因。赵恩源说:“我们有的学生上学的时候就被请去做翻译工作。有两个四年级的学生 做过这样的工作。当地人直接找到汉语系,我就推荐了两个人去。一天就是200美元,干了15天。学生上午上课,一下课就跑了(去当翻译)。当地人跟中国公 司有一单生意,所以需要他们这样的翻译。工作了十几天,这两个学生就挣了2、3千美元啊。可以说只要是把汉语学好,这样的机会在当地是非常多的。”

It is understood that because of limited funding, only the minority of the many Afghans who are studying Chinese can really get to China to take further lessons there. But taking Afghanistan’s particular national situation into account and to give more students the opportunity to come to China, the Confucius Institute headquarter does its best to support Kabul University. Zhao Enyuan says: “From this class of 20 Afghan students, eighteen have applied for (Chinese government-provided) scholarships. On average, every Confucius institute only has a quota of two or three scholarships granted.

据了解,由于经费有限,在众多学习汉语的阿富汗青年中,真正能来华进修学习的留学生还只是少数。但考虑到阿富汗的特殊国情,为了让该校 汉语系学生获得更多来华深造的机会,孔子学院总部尽最大可能给予了喀布尔大学以支持。赵恩源说:“现在这班有20个阿富汗学生,其中18个申请到了(中国 政府提供的)奖学金。如果绝对平均的话,每个孔子学院平均只有2到3个奖学金名额。对阿富汗学生来华学习,孔子学院总部是很支持的,让他们尽可能来中国学 习。”

Afghan students are well aware that this opportunity doesn’t come easily, and are therefore hard-working learners. Their diligence deeply touches the teachers. Chang Lili, in charge of organizing the lessons, says: “All in all, I’m in touch with three classes of students. Compared to overseas students from other countries, they are learning diligently, they know how to learn. Many of them even continue studying in the classroom until midnight. They are really hard-working students.”

阿富汗留学生深知这样的机会来之不易,因此平日里学习特别刻苦,而他们的勤奋好学精神也深深打动了学校的老师。负责阿富汗留学生教学安排的常莉丽老 师说:“我一共接触了三批学生,都挺好的。比别的国家来的留学生都努力,很知道学习。他们很多学生来了以后有的甚至到晚上12点还在教室里学习,很刻 苦。”

For the students to learn at ease, the university has done its best to satisfy their various needs. To respect their faith, the university has opened a special prayer room, and to provide them with food they can eat without reservations, a halal canteen has been set up. Not only that: the university also organized [a] form master[s] to take care of their studies and lives. Class monitor Annu Wali says: “As a class monitor representing everyone, I would like to tell Afghans at home that we are fine, that we learn well, and that life is also very good. I hope that Afghan lives will also get better and better.”

为了让阿富汗留学生能够安心学习,校方还尽可能满足他们的各种需求。为尊重留学生的宗教信仰,学校专门开设了祷告室;为了让他们在异国 他乡吃得顺口还特别设立了清真餐厅。不仅如此,学校还安排了班主任照管他们的学习和生活。班长买买提?安努瓦里说:“我作为班长想代表大家对家里的阿富汗 人说,我们在这里很好,学习很好,生活也很好。希望以后阿富汗人的生活也越来越好。”

A comfortable learning environment puts these students who came from afar in a position to focus on learning Chinese, and under the high-level cultivation from their teachers and by their own diligence, most of them will find ideal jobs. Aomar is from the first semester who graduated at Kabul University’s Chinese faculty, and after that, because of his excellent study results, he became a Chinese teacher at Kabul University’s Chinese faculty. He says: “I’m now a teacher at Kabul University’s Chinese faculty. My first objective is to teach Afghans at Kabul University Chinese in their own language.”

舒适的学习环境让这些远道而来的留学生可以专注地学习汉语,在中方老师的辛勤培养和他们个人的勤奋努力下,从这里毕业的留学生大多找到 了理想的工作。奥马尔是喀布尔大学汉语系第一期的毕业生,毕业后,他以优异的成绩留校成为了阿富汗喀布尔大学中文系的一名汉语老师。他说:“我现在是喀布 尔大学中文系的一位汉语老师。首先我当老师的第一个目的是因为以前在阿富汗没有人教中文,我是要用我们的语言教阿富汗人学中文。”

Now, the freshmen at Kabul University Chinese faculty in 2012 have enrolled, full of expectations and hoping to learn Chinese well. This is also the wish of professor Zhao Enyuan for these new students. He says: “I hope that the students, no matter if currently in China or in their last semester in Kabul, or those I haven’t met yet, will learn Chinese diligently and skillfully. China is the only neighbor without a war between it and Afghanistan during the past 500 years. Afghans are also extremely friendly towards China. I hope that these students will learn Chinese well, understand Chinese culture, and become bridges and links for Sino-Afghan friendship. I also hope that through their improved dissemination of Chinese language and Chinese culture, more Afghans will understand this friendly, amicable and hard-working Chinese nation.”

目前,喀布尔大学汉语系2012级的新生已经入学,他们对未来充满期待,希望能把汉语学好,这也是赵恩源教授对这些新同学的期望。他 说:“我希望不管是正在中国学习的还是正在喀布尔大学读最后一个学期的,还有我没见过面的学生们,更加勤奋扎实地学习汉语。中国是阿富汗近500年来唯一 没有发生过战争的邻国,阿富汗人对中国也是十分友好的。我希望这些学生把汉语学好,熟悉中国文化,成为中阿友谊的桥梁和纽带。同时我也希望通过他们更好地 传播汉语语言和中国文化,让更多的阿富汗人了解中国这样一个友好、友善、勤劳的民族。”

____________

Related

» Remaking the Watchdog, WSJ, Oct 18, 2012
» The biggest investor, Xinhua, June 6, 2012
» Deutsche Welle director quotes Karzai, Deutsche Welle TV, June 2011
» A Taste of Chinese Life, China Daily, Dec 2, 2009
» Give us Afghanistan, Sep 22, 2009

Friday, June 22, 2012

Soft Power: Go and Buy a Hat

After so much advice has been given to China’s dictators so far this year, as to how they could boost their (or their country’s, which is basically the same thing in their view) soft power1), JR does not intend to keep his expertise to himself either.

If soft power matters to them, China’s leaders should wear bigger hats. Or, rather, they should start wearing hats at all.

Now, I know that this is problematic, given that people who were “beaten down” (i. e. humiliated, pushed around, killed, etc.) during the Mao era had to wear big paper hats. Bamboo hats may not be deemed desirable for other reasons. But how about Bao Zheng‘s hat, for starters?

The idea came to my mind as a preliminary remedy to China’s (alleged, anyway) soft-power woes when drawing knowledge from the wisdom of my commenter threads.

In September last year, King Tubby had this to say about the Pope and his speech to German parliament:

[I]f Ratzinger wants to make pronouncements to parliaments, he should turn up in a business suit like any other advocate. Put someone in a few colourful vestments and they acquire some sort of undeserved mystique and their words take on a false gravitas plus a whiff of insence.

Iconography designed for the credulous.

The hat the Pope wore in the Bundestag – that and the papal white robe was King Tubby’s point of criticism here – was actually small, but even then, Angela Merkel visibly envied him. Imagine her facial expression if the Pontiff had chosen a miter or a spiked helmet instead.

Some time after 1976, the Chinese ruling class has chosen to wear suits and ties on formal occasions – you know, the ones the English imposed on us, as Marcel Pagnol wrote much earlier2).

Talking about les Anglais, the Queen wears hats, too. Even when of comparatively moderate size, and even among lots of other people with hats, a hat of your own adds to your conspicuity.

a small hat makes a big difference

Even a small hat makes a helluva difference

Manmohan Singh wears something like a hat, too. If you are asked who of the G-20 guys is the one from India, you’ll probably guess him correctly, even if you never cared before.

You won’t see Hu Jintao smile happily too often, but he’s radiant in his Sun-Yat-Sen suit. Add a Bao Zheng hat (see above) or a spiked helmet (Germany invented the Sun-Yat-Sen suit), and Hu will smile Barack Obama (who doesn’t wear hats either) off the global stage anyday.

Hu & Cie would thus improve their standing, and even do away with the habit of slavishly aping the West at one go.

P.S.: It is quite true that hats of whatever size didn’t work terribly well in that case. But then, what can you expect when your country has mainly barter trade to offer, and little else? If you want to avoid a cold war, you have to be in a position to appeal to the greed of the free world, by bluff or substance.

For similar reasons, soft power is also unlikely to take off in that guy’s place.

Lastly, let me get back to King Tubby’s advice to the Pope (see above, para 5). King Tubby referred to the timeless papal style as iconography designed for the credulous.

But that’s the point, isn’t it?
____________

Note

1) Peking Duck, Rectified Name, The Atlantic, and many comments here.
2) “Le spectateur de théâtre porte un col et une cravate, et ce costume anonyme que les Anglais nous ont imposé.” (La Gloire de mon Pere, 1957)

____________

Related

» Gonna Buy a Hat, Chris Rea, 1987

____________

Saturday, November 12, 2011

“Correcting the Country’s Course”: Paul V. Kane, not Quite the Economist

Paul V. Kane, a former international security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, advises the Obama administration to “ditch Taiwan”. In an op-ed for the New York Times, he wrote on Friday:

With a single bold act, President Obama could correct the country’s course, help assure his re-election, and preserve our children’s future.

Kane quotes Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as saying that “the most significant threat to our national security is our debt”. Besides, Kane argues,

America has little strategic interest in Taiwan, which is gradually integrating with China economically by investing in and forming joint ventures with mainland Chinese firms.

I’m not trying to judge America’s big or small strategic interest in Taiwan. Besides, I have the vague impression that advanced arms technology delivered to Taiwan may not be too well-protected from Chinese espionage.

But only a clear American decision for isolationism could be a cause for considering  “ditching Taiwan”.

Kane may have felt encouraged by statements like those made by U.S. president Barack Obama,  that the nation he is most interested in building is America itself. But that statement was made in context with Afghanistan (and possibly Iraq, the dumb war). And I haven’t read Mullen saying anything that would suggest that he would want to “ditch Taiwan”. Rather, according to Mullen, America’s military power needed a sound economy as its base – a point Obama, too, made in a speech in 2009.

But neither Mullen’s or Obama’s statements, nor much else in this world, would suggest that there were good reasons to believe that abandoning Taiwan would make the world – including America – any safer.

Probably some time in 2009 or 2010,  Beijing began to refer to the South China Sea as a core interest (核心利益) – a term which had been used to describe Beijing’s claim on Taiwan, but not for the South China Sea until then. In 2009, either a year prior to the South-China-Sea referral or about at the same time, Chinese state councillor Dai Bingguo (戴秉国) defined a – at least apparently – more “conservative” set of three “core interests”:

  • the survival of China’s “fundamental system” and national security,
  • the safeguarding of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (which in itself is, of course, pretty flexible after all, and may allow for a real lot of “core interests”), and
  • continued stable economic growth and social development.

Kane seems to believe that Beijing’s definitions of its own interests are stable. That doesn’t look like reasonable political judgment.

But above all, Kane’s argument makes no sense economically. Ten per cent of American foreign is certainly a huge amount – but it’s existence or non-existence would be no game-changer. Even if Kane started a global auction and found ways to please other creditors than Beijing into forgiving their shares of America’s debts, too (in exchange for similarly immoral offers), this wouldn’t change anything about America’s structural economic problems. Yes, it took America many decades to pile up its current debts – but it wouldn’t take America terribly long to incur debts of a similar dimensions again – not in the state it is in right now.If there is something America needs to worry about is that their leaders don’t seem to act their act together. The debt incurred so far won’t actually kill America.

What would make sense for America is to remind its allies – both formal and informal ones – that American commitment can be no one-way street. This isn’t targeted at Taiwan specifically, because it would seem to me that Washington actually applauded Taipei’s cross-strait policies of recent years. Rather, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and other countries who believe that America should strike a balance in China’s neighborhood need to be reminded that they, too, must do their share to keep the region – including Taiwan – safe. The current division of labor in the region – America projecting military power, and everyone else chumming up to Beijing in America’s shadow – is indeed unsustainable.

But if America wants its allies to doubt its commitment to regional security, there could be no better prescription for that, than Kane’s “recommendation”. It’s a safe way to lose credibility.

Apparently, Kane’s op-ed was no put-on, as The Atlantic‘s James Fallows initially  suspected. And anyway, I don’t know who Mr. Kane is, and I’m sure that he isn’t the only person who might come up with such bizarre ideas. What really makes me wonder is that the New York Times actually chose to print this kind of stuff.

Maybe they and Mr. Kane just want another tax break.

____________

Related

» “A Threat that Doesn’t Exist”, Business Insider, Nov. 11. 2011
» The Costs of Running a Trade Surplus, August 7, 2011
» Creative Destruction or Development, March 15, 2010

____________

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Feelgood for the Day: Margot Christ Superstar

Margot Käßmann was the leading Lutheran bishop from 2009 to 2010.

On the Shining Path of Protestant Virtue

On the Shining Path of Protestant Virtue, there's no Room for Subtleties

Kirchentage – a traditional, now biennial lay-movement event,  – are something some of my family and friends love, and what others of us – me included, aren’t fond of at all. Controversy is a good thing – but sometimes, there seems to be too little controversy when the Kirchentag mainstream – yes, such a thing does exist – kicks in. In short, I distrust the atmosphere. That said, church congresses aren’t exactly what they appear to be on television. There are many small workshops coexisting, and somewhere, once in a while, you might get food for thought after all.

It seems that former bishop Margot Käßmann has managed to trigger second thoughts among some of the usually more happy Kirchentag goers though. That’s not because they wouldn’t be practising Christians. But it seems that they take their religion too serious to have it sliced into moralistic canapés.

“Frankly, I think this is a much better idea than to bomb road tankers in Kundus.”
Margot Käßmann, reacting to sarcastic advice to sit down in a tent with the Taliban and candles, and to pray.
Quoted by evangelisch.de

For Margot Käßmann, too, Dolly Parton’s wisdom applies – in the make-up room, to make oneself look natural takes longer than anything else.
Jan Feddersen, in an article for taz

taz is no likely paper to advocate war, but Feddersen appears to be thoroughly pissed-off. So seem several other editorialists. Lutheran theologicans may don simpler robes than Catholics, but that’s no all-around protection against hypocrisy and moralistic superelevation.

I thought about leaving church for some time during the 1980s,  which were similar times in wonderland. I took offense then, because I do have a sense of belonging to my denomination, even if a faithless one. But meantime,  I seem to take things easier. Käßmann’s platitudes don’t anger me the way similar 1980s simplifications did. Rather, they inspire the cartoonist inside me.

The real treasures of thought lie much deeper than the plebeian donnybrooks around Käßmann, or Eugen Drewermann.

That I’m too lazy myself to dive into them more frequently shouldn’t lead me to believe that there would be nothing but  “intellectual fast food” (Feddersen on Käßmann’s sermons) on offer.

____________

Related
» My Fearful Country, March 19, 2011
» “Wild Justice”, Philosophy Now, 2010
» An Exclamation of Joy, Urban Dictionary, July 9, 2007

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Beijing: Inasmuch as Ye have Dunnit to Pakistan…

Should the US ever attack Pakistan and send troops into the country, Beijing would consider that an attack on China itself, and react correspondingly, Chinese negotiators said in Washington D.C., on May 9, during a U.S.-Chinese meeting on strategic and economic issues, reports Spiegel Online. The Chinese delegation had been led by vice premier Wang Qishan. Spiegel bases its  report on information obtained from a high-ranking Pakistani diplomat.

Pakistan and China, not too similar in cultural terms, are united by their common enmity with India, according to Spiegel Online.

Meantime, China on Tuesday indicated it would not invest funds on creating another naval base in Pakistan, according to the Times of India, as Beijing was apparently jolted by the Taliban attack on Pakistan’s naval base.

If you go by comments made by foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (as quoted by the Times of India), such a naval base had been no issue anyway:

Chinese foreign ministry said it had not seen any proposal to build a naval base in Pakistan. The statement amounts to a rejection of Pakistani defense minister Ahmad Mukhtar’s claim that his government was pushing Beijing to build a naval base near the Gawdar port.

“China and Pakistan are friendly neighbors. Regarding the specific China-Pakistan cooperative project that you raised, I have not heard of it,” Jiang Yu, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman told a regular news conference in Beijing.

____________

Related
» Taliban Naval (aviation) Base Attack explained, Huffington Post / Reuters, May 24, 2011
» Hermit: America’s Dirty Helping Hand, August 12, 2010

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Almost Unnoticed: Bremen’s Elections

Election poster, Bremen Bürgerschaft elections: you can say you to me

Election poster, Bremen Bürgerschaft elections: you can say you to me

This friendly gentleman’s (picture) name is Jan Timke. HE (Timke, not the LORD) fights for YOU (ER kämpft für EUCH, says the election poster. There are two forms of “you” in German, “Sie” (with “s” as a capital letter) when you speak to people you haven’t met before, or with whom you aren’t really close, and “du” (plural: ihr / euch) for family people, friends, etc..

But then, a good politician is just like a good friend, right? HE carries some strange stuff on his back. It’s no bag full of christmas gifts. Could be mittens.

Timke re-ran for “Citizens in Anger” (Bürger in Wut, BIW) today and had been a member of Bremen’s parliament, the Bürgerschaft-Landtag, since 2007. His party says that they are undogmatic and conservative in a value-based way (or concerned with traditional value).

I’m not sure how many people visited the angry citizens’ website to see for themselves, but quite a number of people were angry and voted for them. 3.5 per cent all over the federal state, and although the threshold to get into the Bürgerschaft would be 5 per cent, they will be represented in the Bürgerschaft-Landtag, according to the Andere Parteien website, as they got more than 5 per cent in the northern city of Bremerhaven. Radio Bremen reports that Timke will be the only member of parliament for his party. The Angry Citizen’s original goal had been six per cent all over Bremen, as stated in April this year.

The big news is that the Greens are ahead of chancellor Angela Merkel‘s Christian Democrats (CDU) now – in Bremen, that is:

Results by 20:04 CEST
Social Democrats (SPD) 38%
Christian Democrats (CDU) 20%
Greens 22.5%
“The Left” 6%
Free Democrats (FDP) 3%

-

Bremen Town Hall (housing the executive branch of government)

Bremen Town Hall (housing the executive branch of government)

Federal states’ elections affect national politics only marginally, and in Bremen, the CDU has traditionally played second fiddle to the social democrats anyway, but today’s showing may be food for thought for christian democrats in Berlin, too. The SPD and the Greens have been in a governing coalition since 2007, and are likely to continue their coalition, now with something like a sixty-percent majority in the Bürgerschaft. The SPD has been the main ruling party in Bremen for 65 years now, and it is said that as a Bremer, you are either born with the party’s  membership book, or you get one as a present on your first birthday.

“The Left” is somewhat disappointed (they had hoped for a two-digit result), and the FDP is not surprised (with less than five per cent, there will be no members of parliament from the FDP).

The “National Democrats” are said to have gotten some two per cent, according to projections cited by Andere Parteien.

If Bremerhaven should be angrier than Bremen itself (see para 4 of this post) is a somewhat complicated question. This week’s Economist offers some indirect explanations as to why Bremerhaveners may be angrier than Bremers, and some hints as to why they might become even angrier during the coming four years.

Voter turnout was at a historic low on Sunday, as only some 53 per cent of Bremen federal state’s eligible citizens actually casted their vote (also according to a projection). Turnout was 57.6 per cent in 2007.

A delegation from Afghanistan was in town during the weekend to watch the elections. If they encountered problems similar to Ghana’s Kofi Owusu‘s who observed elections in three German states in 2009, they haven’t yet been reported.

The preliminary official result isn’t expected before midnight. Given that every citizen had five votes to cast, the vote counters’ job has become no easier.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Deutsche Welle cuts Shortwave, targets “Opinion Leaders”

Radio Berlin International (RBI) QSL, 1980s

Once upon a time on shortwave - Radio Berlin International (RBI) QSL, 1980s

A few months less than 21 years after East Germany’s Radio Berlin International (RBI) went off the air, the Deutsche Welle (DW, Voice of Germany), once RBI’s West German rival on international shortwave, has announced that it is going to do likewise – in German, anyway. From a DW press release of May 18 (Wednesday CEST):

From November 1, 2011, DW will terminate its shortwave broadcasts in German, Russian, Farsi, and Indonesian. Shortwave transmissions of English programs will be limited to Africa, and the Chinese program will be reduced from 120 to 60 minutes. In these languages, too, DW will strengthen its supplies online, video and audio on demand, and mobile supplies. Whereever it makes sense, radio productions for dissemination via partners will complement this portfolio.

Starting from November, only radio programs in the following languages will be broadcast on shortwave: Amharic, Chinese, Dari, English and French for Africa, Haussa, Kisuaheli, Pashtu, Portuguese for Africa, and Urdu.

Broadcasts through relay stations are scheduled to end in Trincomalee (Sri Lanka) and Sines (Portugal), also on November 1. Only Kigali (Rwanda) will remain in operation.

These measures would lead to significant cost reductions, and enable the Welle to develop further, according to the press release.

The last paragraph is translated as follows, by the Southgate Amateur Radio Club‘s website:

For many areas around the world, it will be necessary to further development online and mobile services in order to reach DW’s target audience better: Individuals who are interested in diverse perspectives and use a large amount and variety of media resources. That especially includes opinion leaders and future opinion leaders*) as well as people who lobby for democracy, freedom and progress in authoritarian countries and thereby strengthen the civil society.

____________

Note

*) The German original doesn’t describe its desired audience as opinion leaders, (which would be Meinungsführer in German), paraphrasing the term as “those [people] who wield influence on a country’s pulbic opinion, or will be influential in the future [...]” (jene, die Einfluss auf die öffentliche Meinung eines Landes haben oder zukünftig haben werden)
____________

Related

» Major Shortwave Cuts, Shortwave Central, May 20, 2011
» Revolutionary: VoK opens Website, April 18, 2011
» International Shortwave Broadcasting “Stuff of the Past”, April 2, 2011
» Just another German Press Review, January 25, 2011
» BBC World Service drops Languages and 648 kHz, January 28, 2011
» Radio Bremen abandons Medium Wave, July 29, 2010
» From German to Foreign Listeners, February 16, 2009

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers