Here is my special greeting for today to everybody in Germany:
If you live in Germany you are one of the 82 million terrorists in the country.
If you were to send an e-mail and wanted to refer to information at your own web site, how would you do it? Would you
1. send a link to the appropriate URL or
2.1. print the web page
2.2. scan the printed page
2.3. compile a pdf-file and
2.4. attatch the pdf-file to your e-mail?
No doubt that most of us would prefer option 1 and would not even come to think of 2.1.-2.4. But that is exactly what the office of the German Family Minister did. Alvar Freude received an e-mail with that kind of an attachment in response to his open letter to the minister.
What the letter was about? You do not really want to know.
I have bowled once in my life. I pretty much enjoyed it and I did not do bad for a beginner. It was in East Berlin 1979.
I was there in my capacity of then vice chairman of the City of Helsinki Youth Board. The bowling along with large amounts of beer took place in what used to be the Palace of the Republic, a brand new building at the time. We also had a fancy dinner in one of the restaurants.
The palace, which for me was above all a bowling alley and a venue of eating and drinking, also used to accomodate the so called parliament of the communist East Germany. The building is now being demolished partly because it is heavily contaminated by asbestos. The BBC has the story.
Tags: Lutz Heilmann, stasi, wikipedia
German MP Lutz Heilmann has withrawn his complaint and the German court in Lübeck lifted the interim injunction against Wikimedia Deutschland. Alas, the German Wikipedia is now acessible via www.wikipedia.de after being blocked during the weekend.
While backfiring heavily on Mr. Heilmann and the Left Party, the incident seems to have had a happy end for Wikimedia Deutschland. Spiegel reports about extensive public outrage and support to the German Wiki foundation:
Shutting down the German portal seems to have backfired, drawing far more attention to the Schleswig-Holstein politician’s past than his Wikipedia entry alone ever did. The German Web site received €16,000 in donations over the weekend, more than quadruple its usual rate. Wikipedia users also flooded the Left Party with angry e-mails.
I just wonder how come so many prominent people only learn the hard way about how the Internet works. Then again, I suppose the web was not a common tool back when Lutz Heilmann worked for the STASI.
Tags: Lutz Heilmann, stasi, wikipedia
If you type www.wikipedia.de into the address bar of your browser you would normally find a search box for articles in the German Wikipedia which is hosted in a US based server belonging to Wikimedia Foundation. As from late Friday, the page looks like this (click for a full size view):
The reason for this provisional change of layout is an interim injunction issued by Landgericht Lübeck. The court injunction was sought by Left Party member of German Federal Parliament Lutz Heilmann. Wikipedia.de is ordered not to redirect to de.wikipedia.org, i.e. the German Wikipedia.
Mr Heilmann is apparently unhappy about an article in German Wikipedia about himself. I addition to regular CV there is a short passage about Lutz Heilmann’s alleged activities within the former East German Secret Police STASI. Referring to an article in Spiegel Online, Wikipedia writes:
Mitarbeiter des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit
Im Oktober 2005 enthüllte Der Spiegel die von Heilmann bislang verschwiegene Stasi-Vergangenheit. Heilmann gibt bis heute öffentlich an, von 1985 bis 1990 einen „verlängerte[n] Wehrdienst (Personenschutz MfS)“ geleistet zu haben. Heilmann war nach Ableisten der allgemeinen Wehrpflicht von 18 Monaten für die Zeit bis 1990 als Berufssoldat beim MfS beschäftigt und verließ dieses erst, als es aufgelöst wurde.
Vor der Wahl hatte Heilmann den Mitgliedern des Landesverbandes seine Tätigkeit beim MfS verschwiegen. Dies stellte einen Verstoß gegen innerparteiliche Richtlinien dar. Auf dem Landesparteitag am 4. Dezember 2005 stimmten die Mitglieder des Landesverbandes Schleswig-Holstein über einen Misstrauensantrag gegen Heilmann ab. Das Ergebnis war 47 Stimmen für Heilmann zu 42 gegen ihn. Heilmann ist seitdem innerhalb der Linken in Schleswig-Holstein umstritten.
According to Mr Heilmann, he was enrolled in a “prolonged military service” from 1985 and 1990 but Spiegel says they are in possession of documents confirming that he was working full time for the STASI:
In den nach dem Fall der Mauer von Bürgerrechtlern gesicherten Gehaltslisten des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit (MfS) ist Heilmann 1989 als hauptamtlicher Mitarbeiter des DDR-Geheimdienstes registriert. Nach Aktenlage war er in der Hauptabteilung Personenschutz tätig, die für die Sicherung und Versorgung der Partei- und Staatsführung zuständig war.
Wikimedia Deutschland are going to file a counter motion tomorrow but it may still take some time before things return to normal. This is not the first time Wikimedia Deutschland have been targetted by legal action. Hubertus Albers a.k.a Atze Schröder last year unsuccessfully intimidated took legal action against then CEO Arne Klempert.
The funny thing is that barely anybody took notice when Spiegel published the information about Mr Heilmann’s alleged STASI activities but it has become more than common knowledge now thanks to his own reactions. I call this a classical example of own goal 2.0.
Edit: There is a short article about Mr. Heilmann in the English Wikipedia.
Tags: Andrea Ypsilanti, Franz Müntefering, prank
Business is not as usual within Germany’s second largest party SPD. The social democrats have been in crisis since former chancellor Gerhard Schröder resigned after 2005 federal election to get a lucrative job as head of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG lobbying for the controversial oil pipeline to be planted in the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Party leader Kurt Beck unexpectedly threw in the towel and resigned for a week ago. Beck is the third party chairman to quit within three years.
As if that was not trouble enough, the SPD leader in the state of Hesse, Andrea Ypsilanti, was subjected to a practical joke by voice inpersonator Jochen Krause who, working for Radio ffn, called her office pretending to be Franz Müntefering, a prominent SPD politician. Ypsilanti and the phoney Münterfering spoke party business for seven minutes before Krause exposed himself. The radio station agreed not to broadcast the prank call.
However, parts of the conversation were apparently uploaded in YouTube and later deleted, much to the dismay of some curious web commentators. It has been brought to my attention that an mp3 file (1 minute and 45 seconds) allegedly containing the beginning of the prank call may be downloadable in a secure server.
This restaurant in Nuremberg, Germany has replaced their waiters by an automated rollercoaster track. The food is prepared by a human chef,though.
Tags: racism, rudolfstadt
Does a problem go away if you pretend that it does not exist? Apparently so, at least according Rudolstadt deputy mayor Georg Eger in Thuringia, Germany. As is the case in many places in what used to be the communist East Germany, Rudolfstadt seems to have an atmosphere poisoned by racism and xenophobia.
Commenting a description by Miriam Neuschäfer, a German with a dark complexion, how she was spat at by a local teenager in a public park, deputy mayor Eger said:
“Spat at? I can’t imagine that,” says Georg Eger, the deputy mayor, vigorously shaking his head in his office on the second floor of the Rudolstadt town hall. He raises his finger and continues: “I even rule that out.”
Racism, xenophobia and hate crime do indeed exist in East Germany even if there are those who try to pretend away the problem. During the first free electoral campaign after the German reunification CDU appeared under the slogan “Freiheit statt sozialismus”. Maybe they should have rephrased it to “Nazismus statt sozialismus”.
Tags: Stuttgarter Volksbank
According to German public broadcaster SWR data privacy officials in the state of Baden-Württemberg are investigating a case involving usage of security camera records of a bank. Stuttgarter Volksbank allegedly used their video records to track a client in order to present a good 50 € cleaning bill to her. The client says her daughter stepped on a dog pile outside the bank office before they entered the office to make a withdrawal in an ATM.
The data privacy officials are less than convinced that tracking a messy customer is a legitimate reason to use the records. The general idea is that surveillance records should only be used for the purpose they were collected for which in case of banks is usually crime investigation.
Tags: constitutional rights, security
The German public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk say (via StoiBär and Heise online) they are in possession of a 14 page German security service memo compiled to evaluate the judicial problems faced by the security service in their investigation leading to arrest of three suspected terrorists known as the “Sauerlandgruppe” four months ago. According to the memo, checks and balances in German legislation made the success of their investigation depend on info received from foreign security and intelligence services. Not surprisingly, the security service now want some of those legislative and constitutional checks removed.
Among the recommendations of the memo is to make audio and video surveillance of suspects’ flats easier. They also want operative real time access to cell phone position data. Perhaps the most controversial proposition suggests that visitors to Internet coffee shops would be obliged to present a paper copy of their photo ID combined to a recognizable user ID during their stay in the web café.
Disregarding for a moment the petty little detail that this kind of intrusions into privacy could be regarded as unconstitutional, I wonder what practical consequences these suggestions might have if approved. If I were a terrorist or even a legitimate whistleblower interested in anonymity, I would not use a cell phone or a web café for my communications as it is. Neither would I post sensitive anonymous messages in the Internet using my domestic web connection.
After all, there are practically an unlimited number open wifi networks allover for me to access. I would have no problem to create a clean partition in my laptop hard drive to be used only for that kind of messages through wireless networks. So even if the security services managed to plant a governmental trojan onto my hard drive they would have hard time connecting any sensitive info I posted with my person.
If the recommendations of the memo were indeed approved and those constitutional checks and balances were eased, just imagine who would be more likely to take protective measures for their communications: a member of a terrorist organization or an innocent whistleblower? The problem is that those checks and balances were explicitly supposed to protect the privacy of the wistleblower. Or that is at least what I thought.
On a more philosophical point, if protecting a constitution requires that constitutional rights of citizens must be essentially limited, is the constitution itself worth protecting? The secret services are after all supposed not only to protect the constitution but also the values behind it. As Kai put it a couple of months ago:
I do not like it. I still want to keep my door closed when I go to the toilet. You see, I expect anonymity – even if you all know what I am doing in there. And I would like things to continue that way. So no thank you, Mr. Kerr, I will not leave my anonymity so you can control my privacy.
Tags: bochum, Business, globalization, multi nationals, nokia
As Nokia closes a cell phone factory in Bochum, Germany, German politicians boycott Nokia phones. Nice Ventures Blog thinks that the politicians are more concerned of winning votes in this year’s regional elections than creating favorable long term conditions for high-tech jobs:
What surprises me about this all is the fact that people seem to hang on to jobs that can in its majority only be assembly jobs so requiring low qualification. German politicians seem to fight constantly for jobs such as in coal mining that have no real future. They in addition lack clear planning and investment into higher education and research. It is easier and faster to jump at such topics in particular when there are state elections like in Germany right now than trying to find future solutions.
The Financial Times Germany has a survey about the boycott showing more or less equal opinion between three options: effective pressure (35 %), activism (29 %) and nonsense (36 %).
Sad as it is for the plant workers in Bochum, they are being hit by the globalization, just as Nokia workers in Finland were when jobs were created in Germany. Nokia is no better nor worse than any other successful multi national. All of them locate their production where the cost is lowest and profits largest.
As for the boycott, I have a hard time imagining which cell phone manufacturer would be ethical enough not to give reason for a boycott in some corner of the World. Maybe the World would be better off altogether without cell phones. I have not used one for two years so I know what I am talking about.
I made a note the other day about the electoral campaign in the German province of Hesse. Here another video clip on the same campaign trail. While this one is not marked to support any particular party, it may be understood as an endorsement for social democrats and/or the greens: Goodbye Roland Koch:
Tags: hesse, Roland Koch
The electoral campaign in the German province of Hesse has taken odd turns. As the ruling CDU government and the premier Roland Koch are making an effort to attract far right votes by echoing hard social values and taking an anti immigrant approach, the far right NPD is seeking support from elsewhere.
Disclaimer: I do not approve the political message of the German NPD.