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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

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Bremen, Germany. November 2009

Screw the (German) state

Germany is particularly odious when it comes to censorship and allowing legal interference with freedom of expression, but his one takes the biscuit for sheer absurdity…

Some 19 years ago, a man in Germany, together with his half brother, reportedly murdered an actor named Walter Sedlmayr. The man was convicted and served 15 years in jail. Now he is free. And, according to Wired, he has exercised that freedom by instructing lawyers, the elegantly named firm of Stopp and Stopp, to sue Wikipedia.

The lawsuit claims that German privacy law, designed to help criminals re-integrate into society, prevents the man being named in association with Walter Sedlmayr’s murder. Wired quotes Jennifer Granick from the Electronic Frontier Foundation as saying that the lawyers are not only demanding that publications change whatever they write now, but that online archives must endure revision, too.

And just for the record, the people in question who were convicted of murdering Walter Sedlmayr are Wolfgang Wehrle and his half brother Manfred Lauber (just to add yet another place in the google cache where that information can sit). This is wacko enough on its own, but the linked article in turn links to geek.com, quoting the EFF, where they make the much broader point as to why this latest legal excess cannot be tolerated

As the EFF beautifully puts it: “At stake is the integrity of history itself. If all publications have to abide by the censorship laws of any and every jurisdiction just because they are accessible over the global internet, then we will not be able to believe what we read, whether about Falun Gong (censored by China), the Thai king (censored under lèse majesté) or German murders”.

As the world networks together, increasingly we cannot tolerate legal attacks anywhere because the repercussions will not stay neatly within national borders, so neither can our hostility to such assaults on our liberty… now let us also do something about Britain’s intolerable defamation laws.

A left wing martyrdom reconsidered

Deutsche Welle reports:

New information indicates that the killer in the controversial shooting of student protester Benno Ohnesorg in Berlin in 1967 was a West German policeman who was also working for the East German Stasi secret police.

Sifting through reams of old files from the communist state security apparatus in East Germany, two historians, Helmut Mueller-Enbergs and Cornelia Jabs, say they accidently uncovered information that the policeman, Karl-Heinz Kurras, was a so-called unofficial employee of the East German Ministry for State Security (MfS) and a member of the country’s Socialist Unity Party (SED).

According to Der Spiegel,

It was one of the most important events leading up to the wave of radical left-wing violence which washed over West Germany in the 1970s.

Deutsche Welle asks the obvious question:

What would have happened to the German student protest movement of the late 1960s had people known that Ohnesorg’s killer had been a spy for communist East Germany?

My question is, what happens to the group memory of the German Left now that people do know that one of its iconic moments was not all it seemed to be – was in fact the opposite of what it seemed to be?

Perhaps not much. Since the Stasi files were opened there have been plenty of revelations. But that works both ways: the steady drip, drip has worn away the stone of the German Left’s own perception of its history. This resonates with me despite the fact that I did not know who the unfortunate Benno Ohnesorg was. I may have been precocious as a young leftwinger in the 1970s but not even my precocity extended to knowing the names of demonstrators killed by West German police brutality (as it seemed) when I was three years old. But though I might not have known about him, I knew – or thought I knew – there were many like him, all over the world. I knew that those better informed than I, the sort of admirable people whose book-lined shelves showed as background to their talking heads on BBC2, they knew about all such victims. Only it turns out that in this case they did not know the whole story.

I wonder if this revelation will have a similar effect on Germans of a certain age and intellectual profile as the revelation that members of CND such as Vic Allen really were Soviet spies had on me?

(ADDED LATER) Forgive me for coming back to a post after pressing “publish”, but I realise the line above gives the wrong impression, and there is more I want to say. The effect of the revelation that what the right wing press had hinted about CND – that it had been infiltrated – was the truth did not astound me. I had already changed my allegiance. If anything, it made me laugh. Well waddya know: the very thing that I clearly remembered thinking was a smear so ridiculous that not even the Torygraph smearers could really believe it, turns out to be a fact. But that laugh was my last laugh against my old self. From then on I thought of my former self as having been not just misguided but fooled.

Germany to Gordon Brown: you are an idiot

Germany’s finance minister has gone on the record as saying that Britain’s rush into ever greater debt to try to halt a recession is foolish, even “depressing”.

Crikey. It makes me wonder whether Germany, mindful of what happened in the hyper-inflation of the 1920s, is worried that sooner or later, the vast amounts of money being hurled at the economies in the West, such as in Britain, will produce a sharp rise in inflation and that ever-higher borrowing will only prolong, but not halt, the current pain.

Anyway, this is bound to be seized upon by the Tories. It will be interesting to see if they do so.

A very relevant film about East Germany

The other night I rented out the DVD based on life in former East Germany, The Lives of Others. It is about what life in the former Communist state was like in the fag-end of the Cold War era. It portrays the extent to which people were spied on by the Stasi, and the brutal efficiency with which that organisation went about its job. It does not sound very promising material for an evening in front of the TV but the film is simply outstanding. I strongly recommend it.

Inevitably, given recent UK events and the government’s mania for CCTV, abuse of civil liberties and assault on the Common Law, the film has a certain poignance for a British viewer. It is also clearly apparent to me that once a critical number of people become involved in spying on others and earning a living from doing this, it is very hard to dislodge it but East Germany eventually crumbled along with the Berlin Wall. When, I wonder, will ZanuLabour have its 1989?

What is ‘fight the power’ in German?

There is a great little article in Slashdot about a well known German hacker group, Chaos Computer Club, publishing the fingerprints of German Secretary of the Interior as part of their protest against state use of biometric ID.

The club published 4,000 copies of their magazine Die Datenschleuder including a plastic foil reproducing the minister’s fingerprint – ready to glue to someone else’s finger to provide a false biometric reading. The CCC has a page on their site detailing how to make such a fake fingerprint

Sweet. I suppose that is a ‘hardware hack’ of sorts!

Motoring architecture

If you buy a new BMW car, you can make a trip to the place near where these fine German machines are built, in southern Germany. These photos of the building where many of the cars are kept for their owners are impressive. One thing that people who criticise some of the horrendous modern architecture used to house people en masse in the 1950s, 60s and 70s tend to forget is that when these buildings are done right and with the needs of clients in mind, they work superbly.

Of course, some stunning cars have been made in very ordinary-looking places indeed. Like Aston Martin.

Brian Micklethwait has dug out some superb pictures of modern buildings via this guy. Amazing stuff.

Competing currencies in Germany

An idea of the late FA Hayek was that people could use different currencies within the same jurisdiction and break away from the idea that if you lived in country A or B, you could only use one currency within A or B and never use more than one in each place. The idea of “monopoly money” is so ingrained that to broach the idea is to incur looks of incredulity. (“But surely that would be messy!”) Now, I have looked quite a bit at the idea of competing currencies and there strikes me as being nothing that is implausible about such an idea as such. This story in the Daily Telegraph is therefore most interesting:

If you live in the Bavarian region of Chiemgau, you can exist for months at a time in a euro-free zone of hills and lakes with a population of half a million people. Restaurants, bakeries, hairdressers and a network of supermarkets will accept the local currency: the Chiemgauer.

Notes are exchanged freely like legal tender. You can even use a debit card. Petrol stations are still a problem, but biofuel outlets are signing up. Dentists are next.

The Chiemgauer is one of 16 regional currencies that have sprung into existence across Germany and Austria since the launch of the euro five years ago.

Article worth reading here from time back by Max More.

‘Universal jurisdiction’

The idea that any country has universal jurisdiction over citizens of other countries, and can try them for actions taking place in yet a third country, would be risible if it were not deeply offensive.

One would think the Germans, of all people, would exhibit a tad more humility in these matters, but if the assertion of universal jurisdiction is not symptomotic of a colossal arrogance, I do not know what is. You would have thought we kicked this nonsense out of the Germans during the ’40s, but I guess not.

It also makes the concept of ‘representative government’ rather irrelevant – after all, the Americans who are apparently now subject to German law never voted in any German election.

It does place our new Democratic overlords in rather an awkward spot; they loathe Rumsfeld, but I suspect that even they are reluctant to bundle him off to Germany for judgement by lefty Euros and miscellaneous anti-American yahoos. After all, if a Republican official is subject to German judgement, why, so might be a Democratic official, should the Rodham-Clinton administration find it necessary to stand up to the jihadis in ways that the neo-dhimmis of Eurabia find offensive.

Heartening self defence story from Germany

This via Reuters:

A 70-year-old British pensioner, trained in martial arts during his military service, dispatched a gang of four would-be muggers in a late-night attack in Germany.

“Looks like he had everything under control,” a police spokesman from the German town of Bielefeld said of the incident last Friday.

The man, a native of Birmingham who now lives in Germany, was challenged by three men, demanding money, while a fourth crept up behind him. Recalling his training, the Briton grabbed the first assailant and threw him over his shoulder.

When a second man tried to kick him, the pensioner grabbed his foot and tipped him to the ground. At this point, the three men, thought to be aged between 18 and 25, fled, carrying their injured accomplice with them.

The pensioner, whose name was not immediately available, suffered light abrasions.

Well, some of our older citizens are not pussies, it seems. I trust and hope that this guy gets a commendation for dealing with these scum in such an exemplary manner.

I have taken some lessons with these guys, and I can strongly recommend them for those in decent physical shape (and that does not mean you have to be a big tough bruiser, either. There is something positively encouraging about watching a petite woman throw off an attack by a 6 foot-tall rugby player type).

Vorsprung durch realpolitik

The European ‘social model’ is nearing the end of the road:

Jobless Germans could be forced to surrender anything but the cheapest of cars to keep their benefit payments flowing, if a plan by conservative politicians goes ahead.

The latest bid to make drawing Germany’s traditionally generous social benefits less attractive would see the long-term unemployed forced to shun high-end “Vorsprung Durch Technik” Audi convertibles, BMWs and Mercedes S Class cars for distinctly lesser models.

Those who live by the state will die by the state.

Lets hear it for the famous Germany work ethic!

As the splendidly politically incorrect Ray D. puts it:

This much is clear: Next year’s World Cup in Germany promises to be a high-scoring event!