Bleg: German News Coverage of Failures of German Justice

I am working on an op-ed piece and perhaps an article about journalistic coverage of the German criminal justice system which I hope to publish on paper, in German, in some German newspaper.

The subject is going to be what I perceive to be the imbalance in German-language coverage of the American criminal justice system versus the German criminal justice system. That is, German-language newspapers are full of coverage (of widely varying quality, much of it error-filled) about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, American death row inmate X or Z, but rarely cover problems in the German criminal justice system. Before asserting this, I want to try to make sure it's true!

So what I am looking for is articles in the German-language press by Germans which deal with potential justice problems in courts in German-speaking countries including:

(1) wrongful convictions;

(2) racial, ethnic, or religious disparities in conviction rates or sentencing;

(3) allegations of racial or ethnic or religious bias among German prosecutors and professional or lay judges;

(4) interviews with prisoners currently serving prison sentences in Germany who claim that they are completely innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted; and/or

(5) detailed examinations of systemic problems in German criminal justice or prisons, things such as underfunding, outdated regulations, disproportionate penalties, or the use of unreliable evidence.

I'm interested, in particular, in well-researched studies or in-depth reportings, not just stories like 'this lefty activist claims he was convicted only because the judge was a right-winger and we lefty activist journalists of course totally believe him and feel no need to research the allegations any further!!' There's a lot of that about in Germany, and it's generally justly ignored.

Also I'm not super-interested in stories about the RAF, which I consider to be an irrelevant side issue. I'm interested in well-considered stories about why random anonymous criminal Achmet got 4 years in prison for the exact same crime that random anonymous criminal Detlef got 2 years for.

Thanks in advance for any links in comments.

Blegs: Japanese Readers, I Want Your Help

Over Christmas I visited Japan. Highly recommended and, thanks to the weak Yen, not at all expensive. I've posted some travel shots on my Flickr account for those who are into that sort of thing.

I thought I'd ask the cultured, worldly readers of this blog to help me with a translation or two. First, I bought a ceramic plate at a Nitten shop. Nitten is a nationwide arts and crafts exhibition that, as far as I can gather, is mainly aimed at lesser-known or amateur artists working in traditional Japanese pursuits such as ceramics, calligraphy, etc. People from all over Japan can submit works to be judged by the notoriously conservative panels, and winners are exhibited and some of their works sold in shops.

I bought this dish:

Ceramic Dish

The two women in the rather dusty shop were really excited that I'd chosen this dish, and pressed a piece of paper with the artists' biography into my hands. The only English they could speak was to point at a row of symbols and say 'famous Japanese art school!'

This is the piece of paper, first an overall view, then a detail of what appears to be the artists' biography. If anybody could give me the gist of it -- especially a transliteration of the artist's name -- I would be grateful.

Ceramic Artist Description Page

Ceramic Artist Description Page Detail

Baffling Signs and Posters

1. Schoolchildrens' Superhero or Demon? Japan is also renowned for its amusing/terrifying warning signs. Most of them are pretty self-explanatory because of the pictures, but this one still baffles me. I found it posted outside a school:

Yanaka poster with odd supervillian outside school

Yanaka poster with odd supervillian outside school detail

2. Uniformed People Kicking Ordinary Japanese For Some Reason. This was on the side of a nondescript building. My secret hope is that it's Japanese Communist Party propaganda:

Kyoto poster uniformed men kicking civilians

 3. Red Sash Women Marching. Finally, here is large poster on a wall near a florists' shop that depicts a large number of middle-aged women wearing red sashes marching. First a general view, then a closeup. Pardon the crappy quality, the poster was pretty soiled.

Tokyo red sash women marching-001

Tokyo red sash women marching detail

Any help interpreting these signs is gratefully accepted. I also have less-baffling Japanese signs which I will post in the next couple of days.

Bleg for Facebook Solutions Please?

As I noted, I now post mainly to Facebook. This blog is a hobby, not a business, and I only have spare time in which to maintain it, so I am not going to waste time copying identical content from Facebook to here. I did add an RSS feed to my Facebook profile, apparently, but I'm not sure how that works.

What would be ideal is to have Facebook posts appear here as well as on Facebook, so that all my readers will be happy. So I've been looking into options.

However, the solutions that have been proposed so far don't really work for me. I could migrate this blog to Wordpress, which apparently has some sort ot integration feature, but Wordpress is a much more time-consuming and technical platform than Typepad, and the migration process is not worth figuring out.

I tried to put a Facebook 'Like Box' widget on this blog but I have tried that and it doesn't show up. Apparently you cannot use this widget for personal facebook feeds, but only facebook pages (which are mainly used by businesses or groups). If I convert my personal profile to a page, according to Facebook, I lose my entire history.

So what I'm saying, dear readers, is that I am out of ideas. I am now looking for is a simple, easy way to have my Facebook feed show up somewhere on this Typepad blog, without moving or migrating or converting anything. I am even willing to pay a certain amount of money (for some sort of app) to make this happen! It just has to be simple.

If anyone has ideas, I would be grateful to hear them in comments. And not to be too shirty about it, but if you're considering posting yet another comment about how Evil Facebook Is, don't waste your time. That train sailed long ago.

Bleg: Nice Remote Cabin in Finland?

This summer, I'd kind of like to spend a few weeks in rural Scandinavia. I've never been to Finland and need to make a pilgrimage to Ainola, so I thought I might as well choose Finland. I'm looking for a cabin somewhere, preferably by a lake. Just for one person. I'd like electricity, but Internet is optional, in fact I don't want it. I would stay 2-3 weeks, in late August-early September. I'll probably rent a car, so the location probably isn't too important -- the scenicer the better. The listings on Airbnb look quite interesting, but a lot of the places have no running / drinkable water or flush toilets. I'm not sure how much of a drag that would be in real life.

If anyone has tips about what I should be looking for, or has been somewhere they'd like to recommend, I'd love to hear from ya.

Bleg: Quote about Military Heroism from Kurt Tucholsky

I've got a bleg. A few years ago I was in a Japanese restaurant here in Düsseldorf, and on the wall was a quotation (in German) that went something like: 'Every speech in praise of the heroism of a fallen soldier in the last war guarantees the death of three more in the next war.'  My recall of the wording is really vague, which is why I can't find this on my own. I think it was from Tucholsky, seems like something he would say, but Im not 100% sure.

I would really appreciate any help finding the exact source.

A Bleg: First-Person Accounts of Psychosis in German?

Ever since I worked in a mental hospital for a few years, schizophrenia has fascinated me. I now have a modest collection of first-person accounts of psychosis written by recovered patients, as well as some written by patients who have not recovered. My small library includes Daniel Paul Schreber's classic Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken (full text in German), Thomas Hennell's The Witnesses, and many others. A recent acquisition is Barbara O'Brien's utterly fascinating Operators and Things, in which she recounts her 6-month journey around the U.S. in 1958 trying to evade the Hook Operators:

Whenever I think of the Hook Operators now, I see a picture of a man with a hook stuck in his back. The hook is attached to a rope and the rope hangs from a ceiling. At the end of the rope, unable to get his feet on solid ground, the man dangles in the air, his face distorted in agony, his arms and legs thrashing about violently.

Behind him stands the Hook Operator. Having operated his hook successfully, the Hook Operator stands by with his other instruments, the knife and the hatchet. He watches the thrashing man, speculating, considering, If necessary, he will move in and cut the victim’s throat, or with his hatchet cleave through the victim’s head.

The Hook Operator is a maker of tools and if he is an expert tool-maker, the hook alone will serve his purpose. The victim, in his thrashing to be free of the hook, will most likely cut into his back the crippling gorge the Hook Operator seeks. The Hook Operator waits and watches. What a man will do, once he is caught on the hook, is always a gamble. There is the chance, of course, that the man may squirm off the hook, in which case the Hook Operator will move in with his other weapons.

There is, too, the chance that the victim may accomplish more than the Hook Operator strives for and crack his backbone or, giving an unexpected twist to his thrashing, tear himself completely in two. Should break or schism occur, the Hook Operator as much as anyone may pause in distress, surveying a wreckage he did not seek and for which he feels no guilt. When he hooks, cuts, or cleaves, his object is not to destroy but to impede and remove. Not personal animosity but competition has impelled him to use his weapons. The man on the hook was not an enemy but an obstacle. Even had the Hook Operator cut his competitor’s throat he would have cut it sufficiently but no more; had he cleaved his skull, he would have cleaved it just enough. Of his weapons, the hook is considered the least barbaric, the one which requires the most skill and the one for which he will receive the least censure.

You can download the entire book for free here. Unlike many such accounts, O'Brien's book has a sort of happy ending: her subconscious generates an incredibly complex and ultimately successful strategy to knit her mind back together.

Now for the bleg: What are some other first-hand memoirs of psychosis in German? What I'm interested in are first-hand accounts written by people who experienced psychotic breaks and then went on to describe them in book or article form. They're pretty rare in any language, but I imagine there must be a number of them in German. Any tips will be gratefully acknowledged.


Ask Me Anything about American Law or Life in Germany

You know, I've been wondering what to do about this blog. I don't really have the time for elaborate posts anymore, or perhaps I just don't have the patience. I was considering just shutting it down for a while, but then there was a bit of an outcry, so I kept it alive, but as you can see it's sort of limping along.

But then I got an idea from this brilliant series of videos called Sixty Symbols, where people write in with questions about physics and other things, which questions are then answered by the physics faculty of the University of Nottingham. So far, my favorite question has been 'What would happen if you put your hand in the Large Hadron Collider?', plus the God video I just posted. 

I also just got a GoPro Hero 3 camera, which makes great HD videos and is much smaller than a pack of cigarettes. Therefore, I thought to myself, why not open up the floor to my readers? Instead of me having to think of stuff to blog about and then laboriously type it up, I can just field questions from you. Hyperinteractive Web 2.0, people!

But obviously nobody wants to just hear me rambling about random subjects such as anal fissures, Albanian hip-hop, or chameleon husbandry. The only things I can really claim any expertise in are American law and life in Germany. As a bonus, I'll try to record some of the answers in interesting spots in or near Düsseldorf, if time and weather permit.

So if you have any questions about either of those subjects, fire away! You can also ask about other stuff and try your luck, but I will only pick questions I feel like answering. You can propose them in comments or by email, I guess. Let me know if and how you want to be identified.

Oh, and nothing in any of these videos will ever constitute legal advice of any kind whatsoever, or any other kind of advice on any subject. And all views expressed will be my own, blah blah blah.

Bleg: Mein Irernachweis, or A Little Bit of Niall of the Nine Hostages in Me

Not a week goes by when a German reader doesn't ask: Werte Volksgenosse! How can I trust the things you say on this blog without knowing your precise racial heritage?

It's a fair question, so I had 23andme perform a complete genetic profile of me.  I found out lots of fascinating things: I have no alcohol flush response, can taste bitterness, am likely to go bald (already have), have 'wet' earwax, above average risks for thrombosis and gallstones, below average risk for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and my ancestry is >99% European.

The most interesting result, though, was my father's haplogroup, which 23andme explains as follows:

Haplogroup R1b1b2a1a2f2

R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland, where the vast majority of men carry Y-chromosomes belonging to the haplogroup. Researchers have recently discovered that a large subset of men assigned to the haplogroup may be direct male descendants of an Irish king who ruled during the 4th and early 5th centuries. According to Irish history, a king named Niall of the Nine Hostages established the Ui Neill dynasty that ruled the island country for the next millennium.

Northwestern Ireland is said to have been the core of Niall's kingdom; and that is exactly where men bearing the genetic signature associated with him are most common. About 17% of men in northwestern Ireland have Y-chromosomes that are exact matches to the signature, and another few percent vary from it only slightly. In New York City, a magnet for Irish immigrants during the 19th and early 20th century, 2% of men have Y-chromosomes matching the Ui Neill signature. Genetic analysis suggests that all these men share a common ancestor who lived about 1,700 years ago. Among men living in northwestern Ireland today that date is closer to 1,000 years ago. Those dates neatly bracket the era when Niall is supposed to have reigned.

Outside Ireland, R1b1b2a1a2f2 is relatively common only along the west coast of Britain.

Now, my father's last name was Hammel, and his father's last name was Hammel, etc. Family lore, which as we all know is notoriously unreliable, has our forebears coming to America as Hessian mercenaries in the late 1800s. The Hessians were hired by the British to fight the Americans, but the Americans offered the mercenaries land if they switched sides, and apparently about 5,000 of the Hessians ended up settling in the United States.

I have no idea whether there's anything to this, but it does seem a bit odd that an American family with a last name Hammel should have a haplogroup that's so closely tied to Ireland. Does anyone have any informed guess as to how this might have occurred?