Thursday, February 16, 2017

Town Halls

Freiburg has a few town halls that developed historically. The oldest, somewhat hidden, and less-known building is the Gerichtslaube (courthouse) first mentioned in 1280 and where in 1498 an Imperial Diet held its meetings.

Gerichtslaube
On Rathausplatz in full view are the so-called old and new town halls, the former built in 1557 in Renaissance style while the latter following the acquisition of two older buildings was finished in 1901 in the revival style of historicism.

New and old town hall on Rathausplatz.
The latter is decorated with a color called Ochsenblut (ox blood).
Over time, the increase in space became necessary because a growing Freiburg needed more services and administration. Even the three town halls - nowadays the Gerichtslaube is only used for ceremonial purposes - soon became to small, so many services had to move into several other buildings scattered all over Freiburg. This was annoying not only for the city administration but for the citizens, too, who had to go all over town to get their official business done.

Technical town hall under construction (©Wikipedia/Andreas Schwarzkopf)
This is why a new bulding called technical town hall was planned and is presently under construction. The move of all those scattered offices into the new premises was initially planned for November of last year and then postponed to April of this year. Yesterday the city informed the press that it cannot move into the new building before November 2017. It is the technologically complicated suspended ceiling containing air conditioning, sprinkler system, lighting and loudspeakers that is causing the further delay.

Accursed ceiling (©BZ/Ingo Schneider) 
Well, by now we Germans are accustomed to delays and cost overruns at all major construction sites. As the responsible site manager said in his mind-blowing logic: When we build longer than planned the building becomes more expensive.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Fortbildung

is the German word for continuing education. Yes, Red Baron, being responsible for public relations at the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft, eventually went to a course to be formally educated in the skill. Here is my certificate:


The first thing we participants learned was that the aim of public relations work is to build a positive image of an organization or association, make it authentic and likable.

À propos participants. There were only four persons who attended the course for another four did not show up. While one lady was working for the organizer of the course, the other two represented an association for Sterbebegleitung (end-of-life care) and the herb garden at St. Georgen, a district of Freiburg.

Public relations is not to be confused with advertising, i.e., an ad in a newspaper is no press release. With the latter associations in Freiburg are not spoiled for announcements of events in the local newspaper Badische Zeitung generally are lost in two pages of fine print or are not published at all. I recently reported on an exception.

The BZ runs a series Aus unseren Partnerstädten (From our sister cities) but Red Baron's attempts to get articles about Madison into the local paper have failed miserably in most cases.

This year Freiburg's adult education center (Volkshochschule) is coming to the rescue of the partnership organizations. In its summer program it places Freiburg's partner cities into focus. So there will be a Tag der Freundeskreise (Day of the circle of friends) in the premises of the VHS on April 9, where we will present our associations.

Cover of the 2017 vhs catalogue
On March 29, Red Baron will give a talk on a topic that is dear to his heart: Von badischen Revolutionären zu Forty-Eighters. Here is the abstract:

Following the defeat of the 1848 Baden Revolution due to the intervention of Federal troops under Prussian command many revolutionaries fled into neighboring countries. From there Friedrich Hecker, Gustav Struve, Franz Sigel, Andreas Lenz and Carl Schurz moved to the motherland of democracy, the United States, setting up their new existence.

At the outbreak of the Civil War these men joined the Union Army continuing their lost fight at home in the States this time against slavery.

The talk will take place in room 204 of the VHS, Rotteckring 12, at 2000 hours.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Martin Schulz

Schulz who? No, I am neither writing about Charles M. Schulz, creator of Snoopy who frequently shouts: Curse you, Red Baron! nor about Sergeant Hans Schultz a somewhat dumb Oberfeldwebel in the TV series Hogan's Heroes.

The name Schulz or better Schulze refers to the village elder who in the Middle Ages was, as in the case of Freiburg, called Schultheiß, the titel of an elected official serving as a judge: a Schultheiß heißt (points out) die Schuld (the guilt) to the delinquent.

A name even for Germans hard to get used to (©Der Spiegel)
Martin Schulz is no judge but he was mayor of Würselen a small town near Aachen for eight years before he became member and later president (speaker) of the European Parliament in Strasburg. Now after five years he was looking for a new job and it happened - with actual party chairman Sigmar Gabriel dropping out - that the German Social Democrats - Europe's oldest democratic party - were looking for the top candidate in our upcoming federal elections on September 24.

©ZDF/Die Heute Show
Suddenly old aunt SPD is getting a boost. Germany's grand old party forbidden by Bismarck built and defended the Weimar Republic after the First World War. It was the only party that stood up and voted against Hitler's Ermächtigungsgesetz in 1933 (Enabling Act). It now is spreading hope in a world of autocrats.

 With Martin Schulz as designated chairman running for chancellor SPD poll results within a week were up by 7% from a meager 20% while Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats were faced with a 2% decline from 36 to 34%. It looks like a miracle so Der Spiegel portrayed Schulz as Saint Martin.

Candidate Martin Schulz's craving for power (©Der Spiegel)
In its last 2016 issue Der Spiegel wrote about the Gerhard Schröder era. The old chancellor said, the SPD must always claim to rule the country but when looking at depressed party chairman Sigmar Gabriel I could imagine that Schröder ended his wisdom with a quotation from Luther that he had used earlier: Aus einem verzagten Arsch kommt kein fröhlicher Furz (You will not get a joyful fart out of a despaired arse).

Schröder was an egomaniac but he gave to his voters the feeling of a new beginning, of reforms and a better life. He is admired and hated for his Hartz IV reforms pushing unemployed persons back into work by reducing subsistence dramatically for long-term unemployed.

Is Schulz the new Schröder? Der Spiegel calls him an ambitious man but does he have the required experience? The fact that the SPD hopeful has so far not been involved in Berlin politics is an asset but at the same time a disadvantage. Here Schulz may learn from Donald Trump except that Schulz is a convinced European and a democrat. As a former mayor he knows how to speak to the people in simple terms, i.e., in a sort of democratic populism and he can do it is six languages. A dropout in high school and following an apprenticeship as a bookseller he started his own bookshop at Würselen. From then on he read all the books on his shelves.

Schulz MEGA (©Facebook)
For the time being little is known about the future program of the SPD but why not return to the roots of social democracy? While the economy on its way to total globalization continues to wrest power from governments, politicians, and parliaments Martin Schulz will fight for more social justice. And do not forget; Schulz MEGA (Make Europe great again).

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

I Got Mail

Yesterday I was greatly honored by Vice President Mike Pence sending me an e-mail. Amazing, fantastic, unbelievable, I love it:



Friends,

Today, I cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos.

The vote the President asked me to cast wasn’t just for Betsy – it was also for America’s future.

Our nation’s success depends on the education of our students. In Betsy DeVos, we have one of America’s foremost advocates for educational opportunity and excellence.

For nearly three decades she has devoted her time, her talent, and her treasure to ensure that every child in America has the best shot at a better life. Countless students have benefitted from her efforts to promote an educational marketplace defined by innovation, opportunity, and real, meaningful choice.

The President and I agree that our children’s futures should not be determined by their zip code. Students should not be trapped in a system that puts the status quo ahead of a child’s success

Betsy DeVos will have great impact as Secretary of Education. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a public school, a private school, a parochial school, a charter school, or any other kind of school – she will help ensure that every student has access to a good school.

We are grateful to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and all the Republican Senators who stood with us on this important vote.

The President is fully committed to this mission. Today’s vote was the first of its kind in our nation’s history, but the real history will be made through our unwavering dedication to America’s children – and to America’s future.

Thank you for all your help and support.

Sincerely,

Michael R. Pence
Vice President of the United States


Let me tell you that Red Baron is tremendously proud of being a bigly witness of a huge historical event. Just terrific, never heard of a Vice President deciding a vote in the Senate.

In the past Vice President Pence, a studied lawyer and a tough guy, has already shown his braggadocious expertise in educational matters when talking about evolution in Congress. Darwin the loser, totally schlonged, a zero moron, totally overrated, total disaster. Now Pence endorsed Betsy DeVos, She has been treated so unfairly, she is a great person, a winner!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

National Prayer Breakfast

Listening to President Trump's narcissistic speech at the National Prayer Breakfast I developed the feeling of the German painter Max Liebermann. When in 1933 the old man saw the Nazi hords passing the Brandenburg Gate near his workshop he said in his Berlin dialect: Ick kann jarnich soville fressen, wie ick kotzen möchte (I would like to vomit so much but I can’t eat enough).

This feeling became overwhelming when President Trump said: We had tremendous success on "The Apprentice," and when I ran for president I had to leave the show. That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it, and they hired a big, big movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger to take my place, and we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster and Mark [Burnett] will never, never bet against Trump again. I want to just pray for Arnold if we can -- for those ratings.

There was a mild laughter from the audience. Did Trump rather pray for those ratings or for the man Arnie?


Handwritten title page
of Jefferson's synopsis of the gospel,
the so-called Jefferson Bible.
Jefferson was like a modern Luther comparing
 the text of the New Testament in various languages.
Was he looking for differences?
Later in his address Donald Trump said that President Thomas Jefferson was a defender of free religion but he failed to mention that the great Jefferson shunned organized religion particularly the Anglican Church pressing for the complete separation between church and state.

While the third president was greatly impressed by the wisdom of Jesus (the famous Jefferson Bible) he had been strongly influenced by the Enlightenment of Locke, Hume, Montesquieu, and Voltaire during his Paris years. Although Jefferson said: God who gave us life gave us liberty nobody called him a Christian but some called him an epicurian.

In a previous blog about A Wicked Company you will find the following paragraph:

Count von Holbach's salon members’ writings became an integral part of how the founding fathers thought about the nascent United States. Jefferson’s handwritten catalogue of books lists not only works by British empiricists such as Hume but also titles by Voltaire and a whole list of crucial books of the radical Enlightenment: the famous De l’esprit by Helvétius (the cause of the 1757 crisis of the Encyclopédie), Holbach’s Système de la nature his Théologie portative (here interestingly attributed to Diderot), a set of Oeuvres philosophiques by Diderot, several anonymous or pseudonymous works such as Holbach’s Christianity Unveiled (“by Boulanger,” in Italian) as well as Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes and Beccaria’s Of Crimes and Punishments, and a wide selection of precursors, such as Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, and Pierre Bayle. Holbach’s Paris library had the same books on its shelves—as philosophers he and Jefferson were speaking the same language. A notion straight from Holbach’s table and the sum of the philosophical ideas defended there is the "pursuit of happiness".

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States clearly shows the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson prohibiting the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. Explicitly this Amendment clearly means that any religion could be exercised in any of the States and implicitly a wall of separation between church and state according to founding father Thomas Jefferson's correspondences in that matter. The precise boundary of this separation however still remains in dispute.

During his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast President Trump mentioned that he will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment: An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. You have much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits.

Separation of church and state? Some Americans even regard a National Prayer Breakfast as unconstitutional.

P.S.: Schwarzenegger responded to Trump's remarks on Twitter saying, Hey Donald, I have a great idea. Why don't we switch jobs? You take over TV because you're such an expert in ratings and I take over your job and then people can finally sleep comfortably again, hmm?

Friday, February 3, 2017

#POTUS

When we set up the 2017 program of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft in January I proposed to discuss the presidency of Donald Trump. The remark of my President Toni was: On the first of February a Stammtisch about Trump? Ten days are too short. O.K., Manfred you do it.


And I made it calling the topic of the FMG-Stammtisch: The first 10 days of an alternative America. Here is my introduction to the discussion:

Tonight we notice that #POTUS - stands on Twitter for President of the United States - has done more in his first 10 days than many a president in the usually 100 days.

At the moment President Trump governs via Twitter and by executive orders. Twitter replaces press conferences. When the president elect, i.e., #realDonaldTrump twittered that the new Air Force One was too expensive the shares of Boing faltered. His twittering as #POTUS will have considerably more weight. Here is the latest:

A response to Federal District Court judge James Robart's ruling temporarily blocking two provisions of the "Muslim Ban" executive order: The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned! - Donald J. Trump twittered via #realDonaldTrump.

Executive Orders (EOs) have been numbered over the last 100 years. So Executive Order 13.765 signed by President Trump interred ObamaCare. What we call Dekrete (decrees) are comparable to laws in the States.

This is how the satirical television show Extra drei pictures
 the great executive ordinator (©NDR)
EOs appear to be vigorous. Since Trump's popular approval in the States presently is only around 45% he tries to convince his critics by telegenically signing EOs with popular topics. Governing via EOS shunting the House of Representatives reminds me of the Notverordnungnen (emergency ordinances) in the Weimar Republic.

This does not seem too bad since EOs must pass the House of Representatives if money is involved. However, in asking the Mexicans to pay for their wall President Trump undermined the budgetary power of the House. If Mexico does not follow through he will levy a 20% duty on all Mexican goods to pay for it. Is that the start of a trade war with Mexico?

President Trump presenting EO 13770 with Vice President Mike Pence (left) and
Secretary of Defense James Mattis (right) applauding (©AFP)
When #POTUS had signed EO 13770 "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States" temporarily suspending entry, regardless of visa, of citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for 90 days and entry of citizens from Syria indefinitely protesters invaded US international airports over the last weekend. Note that Saudi Arabia and Egypt where Trump has business interests are not included in the ban.

When I was watching the protests at Kennedy Airport live on Facebook a young American called the entry ban to the States un-American. Is it un-American or alternative American?

The NYT wrote: President Trump's wave of directives reverses years of American policy on immigration, trade, health care, abortion and the environment.


In spite of an exceptional advertising in the Badische Zeitung the FMG-Stammtisch audience was not big. Were people scared like two attending American ladies: What is going on in the States? Did other people think that ten days were too short a period to seriously discuss decisions of the Trump administration?

First topic: Why did Hillary Clinton lose? She represented the Washington establishment that already at the time when I was traveling the States was regarded as filthy by many of my fellow scientists. Donald Trump promised a terrific clean up and to care for those Americans who feel being left behind.

The cleavage of the American society runs between town and country. While the city of Madison voted Democrat the rural state of Wisconsin swung Republican. Trump promised those citizens in left-behind regions to reopen their factories and mines and so it is not surprising that these people were looking for alternatives. Will Donald Trump voters discover that their president in fact is part of the establishment and will his supporters soon find out that they jumped from the frying pan into the fire?

If the Trump administration finds the money to build the wall at the Mexican border where does it find American workers? The overall unemployment rate in the States is only 4.8% hence lower than the one in Germany with 6.5% although there are regional differences. Will those people from Alaska (unemployment rate 6.9%) rush to the Mexican border to help building the wall?

Investing in America's infrastructure is a good thing. Financing should be no problem in simply making more debts. But again where to find the necessary workforce in the States?

Levying taxes on imported goods will be complicated. Trump's plan to produce goods in the States will make them more expensive and thus disadvantage American people of low income. In particular the auto industry is a global affair. BMW's plant in South Carolina exports 70 percent of the vehicles made there and while Germans do not buy Chevrolets they buy Opels from a factory at Rüsselsheim owned by General Motors.

On the other hand, European leaders understood Trump's message well that NATO countries may no longer base themselves on the States for their defense but must invest more in their own military forces.

We agreed to meet again in three months to rediscuss President Trump and his administration.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Elphi









As I had announced in November last year: Red Baron was in Hamburg on January 19, listening to Hob XXI, i.e., Joseph Haydn's Creation at the Elphilharmonie.


Elphi was officially inaugurated on January 11, in the presence of our Federal President Joachim Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the head of the federal state of Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz. All are in holi-evening mood, no lamentation over costs anymore.



Gauck, Scholz and Merkel's Raute ©dpa

The night of Elphi's inauguration ©dpa
When our group approached Elphi eight days later we saw the following:

Well, not quite. This is a photo of a model of Elphi taken the following day
 at the Miniatur Wunderland (A blog to follow)

The long ascent to the plaza on the 11th floor via escalator is impressive but the moving stairs form a bottleneck when at the end of a concert more than 2000 people want to leave the place at the same time.


Night view from the plaza on the 11th floor looking downtown
showing the steeples of four of Hamburg's old churches

Looking downstream the Elbe river

Alter Kaiserschuppen in the 1920ies on top of which Elphi was built.
Note the Greenwich ball on top of the tower coming down once a day announcing noon exactly.
The dial below shows the tidal height in Hamburg harbour.
Since the opening of the concert hall built on top of an old Schuppen (a storage building) for coffee and cocoa there were lots of discussions about Elphi's acoustic. Initially Master Yasuhisa Toyota thought that the sound quality would be the same at any seat. Apparently this is not the case for those sitting in the back of orchestra and singers.

Before the start of the concert: introducing Haydn's Schöpfung
Red Baron sitting on the 13th floor on the side had no problem with sound and had a good view too.


While only a life concert will give a transparency of sound you will never achieve at home with the most perfect HiFi installation it is known that the sound of an orchestra in a too big concert hall may "fall apart" in particular when the hall is empty. Therefore the too small seats in Elphi were formed and stuffed in such a way that it makes little difference to the acustics whether a seat is occupied or not.

Before the pause following the first and second part of Haydn's Creation conductor Hengelbrock
 and the three solo singers Raphael, Uriel, and Gabriel are bowing to the public sitting in the back.

At the end: final applause for Uriel and Adam
with Hengelbrock blowing kisses to Eve.

The NDR choir. Note the people sitting in the back of orchestra, choir, and solo singers.
The concert was really impressive. The NDR choir, solo singers and the NDR Elbphilharmonieorchester were excellent although compared to Berlin's, London's, and Vienna's symphony orchestras my feeling was that of a soccer match: a club of the second Bundesliga was playing in a stadium of the first. What a chance they have! Musical Director Thomas Hengelbrock and his musicians may only gain.

The following day Red Baron went to the Elphi plaza around lunch time for a day view over Hamburg and the Elbe river.

Approaching Elphi from the side. It was a foggy day.

Looking downstream the Elbe river. Compare with the night photo above.

View in the direction of the Neustadt.
The steeple of St. Michaelis, Hamburg's older and other landmark, is barely visible.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hans Baldung
















Freiburg has a good collection of woodcuttings by Hans Baldung Grien. They were on exhibition from September 17, 2016, to January 15, 2017, following a partial opening of the second construction phase of the city's Augustinermuseum. So Red Baron hurried up not to miss the exhibition.

Before showing you some woodcuttings Grien's masterpiece in Freiburg's Münster church must not be forgotten. The altarpiece shows Christ in a somewhat leisurely posture, holding the world in one hand and with the other clumsily helping his father coronating his mother as celestial queen. Still today some pious viewers are shocked.



©Wikipedia/PogoEngel
They nicknamed him Grien (the Green) when he was working in Albrecht Dürer's workshop although Hans was no greenhorn. Born in 1484 he had started learning woodcutting and engraving at Strasbourg in 1500 before he moved to Nuremberg in 1503 to work with the uncontested master of his time Dürer.

As Der Spiegel illustrated the other day: contrary to today even at the end of the 19th century the number of possible "Christian" names was limited to those taken from the Bible.  At the outgoing Middle Ages Hans or the longer form Johannes (John) was quite common. By the way, Red Baron's given second name is Hans. Since I like Johannes better I tried to change but the authorities detected my unofficial act and whistled me back.

Diversity:
In 1894 63% of the girls and 70% of the boys had five names taken from the Bible (except for Nikolaus).
In 2015 the five most frequent names were only shared by 11 resp. 7% of the babies (©Der Spiegel)

Coming back to Dürer's workshop. Albrecht had three men with the name of Hans working for him so the one Hans mostly clad in green cloths was soon called the Grien. He liked his nickname so much that he signed most of his engravings and paintings with his three initials HBG.

Hans and Albrecht became good friends so Grien managed Dürer's workshop in his master's absence. In particular when Albrecht was in the Netherlands where he learned in 1521 that Luther had suddenly disappeared on his way back from the imperial diet at Worms to Wittenberg. Dürer who had intended to etch the Luther portrait zu einer langen gedechtnus des kristlichen Mannes (for a long commemoration of this Christian man) lamented in a letter: Oh Gott ist Luther tot, wer wird uns hinfürt das heilig Evangelium so klar fürtragen! Ach Gott, was hätt er uns noch in 10 oder 20 jahrn schreiben mögen! O ihr alle frommen Christenmenschen, helft mir fleißig beweinen diesen gottgeistigen Menschen und ihn bitten, daß er uns ein andern erleuchten Mann send (O God, if Luther is dead who in the future will present the Holy Scripture in such clarity! Good God, what he could have written in the next 10 or 20 years! O you pious Christians help me weeping over this God-spirited person and asking God to send us another enlightened man).

Hans Baldung, however, depicted Luther in 1521 as A servant of Jesus Christ and a capsize recoverer of Christian teaching:

Martin Luther with nimbus and Holy Spirit (1521)

Adam is holding a small apple in his hand
 to offer it to Eve. She, however, reaches
 for the bigger, forbidden one (1514).
Five years later: Eve now holding
two apples is no longer resisting
Adam's propositions (1519).
The seven deadly sins (1511)

Drunken Bacchus with playing and peeing cherubs (1520)

Front page of Huldrichus Zasius's Nüwe Stattrechte und Statuten der loblichen Stadt Fryburg im Pryszgow gelegen (New municipal law and bylaws of the praiseworthy City of Freiburg situated in the Breigau) showing Freiburg's three patron saints. In the middle St. Mary with the child, on the left St. Alexander of Rome, and on the right St. Lambert of Maastricht.
.

Around 1520

St. Philippus from Baldung's apostel series (around 1519).
The guy looks like the old Goethe to me.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Alternative Facts

From the NYT: Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, said the White House press secretary gave "alternative facts" when he inaccurately described the inauguration crowd as "the largest ever" during his first appearance before the press this weekend.

Alternative facts is a new combination of words for Red Baron although the concept is old. I admit having used alternative facts as a student. No, not in examinations but during a trip to East Germany in 1959. Here is the full story copied from my blog, Weimar, German History in a Nutshell:

Red Baron then a young scientific hopeful in Munich still remembers his first visit to Weimar in 1959. In November 1958 Nikita Khrushchev issued the Berlin ultimatum that caused Hamburg's press baron Axel Springer in January 1959 to start a campaign in the Federal Republic with the slogan Macht das Tor auf (Open the Gate) selling pins with the Brandenburg Gate for 20 pfennig a piece.

Later in 1987 President Reagan when visiting the Berlin wall and looking at the Gate modulated Springer's slogan imploring the right person: Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

In fall 1959 a left wing Gesellschaft für fortschrittliche Politik (Society for progressive politics) in Munich had posted an answer to Axel Springer's slogan: Wir machen das Tor auf (We open the Gate) offering a bus trip at a moderate price to Gera, a small industrial town in Thuringia, and as a lure a detour to Weimar. Together with a friend and a couple of other students we took this unique opportunity to visit Weimar the working place of Germany's quadruple star Goethe, Herder, Schiller and Wieland but before that our delegation had to suffer agitated political discussions in Gera.

Political slogan in Gera's theater: Germany's fate will be decided between the forces of peace and
the military adventurers in the west
.
This scanned slide is more the 50 years old. In spite of image processing its quality is bad.
With my friend we fought virtually back to back against devoted followers of the communist regime. In the beginning we felt somewhat lost against their arguments supported by hard facts until we noticed that the achievements forwarded were not as "hard" as it seemed. So I started to invent "supporting numbers" myself and became so successful in defending "western values" that my East German counter part, a trade union official, looking for help frequently asked a journalist of the Neues Deutschland, the official government newspaper: Antworte du dem doch mal (You should rather answer him).

Back to 2017, here is my question: Are alternative facts as in the case of the inauguration crowd always post-factual? IFLScience gave an answer: Science and reason are up for one hell of a fight under the Trump administration. We now live in the Orwellian world of “alternative facts”, which are like facts, but bullshit. It’s surely only a matter of time before the Ministry of Truth is set up.

Here in Germany we have problems with facts too but more with the word alternative and its special relation with our chancellor. Whenever she defends a decision of her government she utters: Diese Entscheidung ist alternativlos (This decision has no alternative).

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Oecumene?

Freiburg's Catholic City Deacon and Cathedral Prelate Wolfgang Gaber and the Lutheran City Deacon Markus Engelhardt are best oecumenical friends. Once sitting together over a glass of wine united in the Lord* they wrote a common press release on the renaming of streets in the city. Red Baron reported.
*For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20).

It could have happened on this occasion - some say it was as early as 2015 - that Markus had asked Wolfgang whether he may celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation at the Münster church. Initially built by and for Freiburg's burghers it became a bishop's church only later in the 19th century. So it would be the ideal place for Freiburg's citizens to celebrate this special anniversary in their church. Prelate Gaber saw no problem. Already now Deacon Engelhardt is present in the Münster as a nativity figurine presenting the Lutherbibel? (Luther's Bible) to the new-born child.

Markus Engelhardt guiding a camel ©BZ
Last week after consultation with Archbishop Stephan Burger Prelate Gaber paddled back: The Lutherans should celebrate in a Protestant church since the anniversary of the Reformation is an eminent Lutheran commemoration. Initially I regretted the negative decision but I now start to understand. For us Catholics the Reformation still is a painful event.

In all oecumenical understanding and friendliness the Protestants will now celebrate at Freiburg's Municipal Theater. Deacon Engelhardt said, we as a Church would like to go out into the world where there is life. We will celebrate the service with a strong oecumenical touch. German Catholics and Protestants had already agreed earlier to commemorate the anniversary of the Reformation jointly as Christusfest (a feast of Christ).

Friday, January 13, 2017

A New Year's Reception

Neujahresempfänge are proliferating in Freiburg. It is a nice gesture to come together with friends, glass in the hand, wishing them a good year, and making small talk. Red Baron is invited to many of those New Year's receptions but has to skip some for their timely density is too high.

The day before yesterday the city of Freiburg held its New Year's reception at the Konzerthaus. Red Baron got an invitation and was one of 1300 guests.


When I arrived in time at 1800 hours all chairs for the elderly people were already occupied. So I placed myself with my back against a railing easing the weight on my aching legs.

There were only a few chairs for elderly people and VIPs in the foyer of the Konzerthaus.
Red Baron, white hair, blue jacket, is standing on the left with his back to the railing
(©BZ/Ingo Schneider)

Same audience as seen by the speaker Mayor Dieter Salomon.
Red Baron is the tall guy in the back clinging to the railing on the left (©Amtsblatt/A. J. Schmidt)
In his speech Mayor Dieter Salomon recalled the old year with all its turbulences. Citizens have become uneasy accusing authorities of no longer being able to protect them. Hence populists are questioning fundamental assets of a pluralistic society like democracy, parties, elections, parliaments, justice and freedom of the press. We may no longer take these values for granted. To weather the threat from the right on our "western values" we need a wehrhafte Demokratie (well-fortified democracy).

Dr. Salomon's speech was translated into sign language
Freiburg is a boom town. The growth in population is twofold. People from outside move to Freiburg and more children are born inside. The city needs more and in particular affordable housing. On the other hand the development of the city's infrastructure is well under way.

Dr. Salomon also mentioned the events that moved Freiburgers in 2016: the murder of a young student, the renaming of streets, and the remains of the old synagogue. Red Baron reported. At the end of his relatively short speech Mayor Salomon announced what was already known: he will run in 2018 seeking a third eight year term as mayor.

At the end of his speech the audience applauded
 but the mayor's glass was empty and he was eagerly looking for a water refill.
Since I was in a strategic position I "sprinted" into the empty space between him, the audience, and the glass of water, wished him all the best for the future, and gratulated him for his decision in quoting a phrase from a couplet by Otto Reutter: Nehm‘n Se ‘n Alten, denn der tut besser halten (Take an old guy for he lasts longer). The mayor roared with laughter.

What a relief!

Ich bin hindurch* (I am through with my speech)
*Martin Luther ought have said following his hearings at the Worms diet in 1521.
Not all citizens agree with Mayor Salomon's decision to run for a third term: His system is too burocratic, Dieter is lacking visions, we need a new person with new ideas. At the moment I do not see any other valuable candidate so in times of trumpism it is good to know that one can rely on a proven guy (Nehm‘n Se ‘n Alten ...).

Even our Italian citizens like Freiburg's mayor:
 Diter Salomon ist meine Papa.
(Graffiti at the Martinstor)